by Ryan Snyder

Upcoming shows you should check out


Swannanoa native Malcolm Holcombe’s story is somewhat typical thus far of the tortured songwriter: toil brilliantly but remain overlooked, fade into obscurity and ultimately become forgotten, before a glorious revival. Holcombe has been stuck on the toiling phase for decades now, possessing an extremely devoted but smallish fan base. What keeps him from fading out like the Michael Penns, Hasil Adkins and Gary Farrs of the world is elementary: just seeing him perform live. He is truly sui generis. As a songwriter, he’s a monumentally gifted storyteller, tempering raw emotion into complex but relatable narratives. As a live performer, he’s a primitive presence on stage. He swears like it’s a second language, tells stories that neither have nor need an ending and fingerpicks his guitar like his eternal soul depends on it. He’s primarily a solo performer, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t have a lot of friends. His record-label transience has built him with a unique supporting cast on every album, namely Luke Bulla and Tim O’Brien on the last two, and vocal help from Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris on his latest Down the River. Holcombe will surely offer some of those songs and more when he performs at Hanesbrands Theatre on Saturday. At least they’ll be somewhere in there amidst the off-color stories and madman howlings. Tickets are $18 and the music starts at 8 p.m.


Like common sense correspondent Mr. Senior insisted on last weekend’s Saturday Night Live, “Trick or treat, merry Christmas, it shouldn’t be that damn fast.” There’s a whole holiday in the middle, but Trans-Siberian Orchestra is already going to be here this Sunday to ruin Christmas before Thanksgiving ever gets here. While some holiday productions touch on the religious aspects of the holiday season, others the nostalgic, no other holiday spectacle comes as close to embodying the bombastic excess of the Christmas season than the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. With a cast of almost 40 guitarists, singers, percussionists, keyboardists, string musicians and actors performing a marathon of holiday classics and creatively ham-fisted originals with military precision alongside with so much fire, smoke and lasers that the Vegas DJ scene thinks it needs to tone it down, it’s either going to be the greatest show someone has ever seen or it will make you them faith in humanity. For all its theatrics, TSO has a way of leeching holiday music of every ounce of warmth and cheer, replacing it with blazing fast legatos, lace-up leather boots and eyebrow-singeing pyrotechnics. Then there’s the hokey, convoluted narrative that will stop making sense around the time your eyebrows are scorched off. TSO comes to the Greensboro Coliseum on Nov. 24 with 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. performances. Tickets are $41.15 and up, but you really want to think twice about sitting too close.


If dreams were lightning and thunder was desire, they would strike out the days between next Wednesday’s performance by Bonnie Raitt at War Memorial Auditorium and John Prine’s date the following week on the same stage. Prine’s beatified lines are like honey coming from the lips of either singer, but their duet remains a knee-buckling beauty than can reduce the hardest man to tears. Prine’s version will always be marked by its simplicity; other than the rare occasion where he’s backed by members of Old Crowe Medicine Show, Dave Jacques’ upright bass tends to be the only accompaniment he needs. Raitt, on the other hand, is known for her lavish accompaniment. The last time she came to North Carolina was one year ago when she was joined on stage by Winston- Salem-bred (and very pregnant at the time) songwriter Sarah Siskind to sing Prine’s part. That role this time around will actually be filled by a singer whose career predates even that of Raitt’s in Irish folk singer Paul Brady, a musician who is the definitive artist’s artist. Just ask Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Roy and Victor Wooten, and Bela Fleck, all of whom have shown up on his solo albums. But Raitt seems to be taking late influence from the Irish. Her collaboration with Ed Sheeran associate Foy Vance recently resulted in the arresting “You and I.” Tickets start at $57.60 and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.