Tom Petty, Steve Winwood
Walnut Creek Amphitheatre—Steve Winwood possesses one of rock's singular voices, a searing souful croon that took him across the Atlantic with his demand for some lovin'. Even now, on albums like his latest, Nine Lives, his vocals are terrific. The album's sound spans from bluesy workouts like "I'm Not Dreaming," showcasing some fine guitar work, to the jazzy adult contemporary that's predominated across his solo career. Unfortunately, Winwood's blue-eyed soul tends to be more interesting to hear than to listen to, due to meandering compositions and often unimaginative content.
Tom Petty, on the other hand, has a voice as inimical to music as Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello, yet boasts a better catalog than almost any other '80s alum. He's done it almost quietly; but attend a concert, witness hit after hit with huge swaths of audience joining in song, and you'll start to appreciate his career. Beyond the fine playing of Petty and his band, there's the way he surreptitiously took Springsteen's mantle as a chronicler of working class hopes and dreams, from "American Girl" on "Into the Great Wide Open." Though he's really an artist, he approaches it like a craftsman, penning smart, unstudied roots rock with an emphasis on the rock. Tickets are $29.50-$95 for the 7:30 p.m. show. —Chris Parker
Blues in the Night
Koka Booth Amphitheatre—Playing together since 1977, Blues in the Night's John Cephas and Phil Wiggins keep the Piedmont blues alive. "Bowling Green" Cephas picks his guitar with the familiarity of a lover and punches out lyrics like a lover scorned. Wiggins bends his harmonica around guitar notes with the tenderness and understanding of a bottle of whiskey. Influenced by local greats like Blind Boy Fuller and Sonny Terry, Cephas and Wiggins join forces with the N.C. Symphony tonight as part of the 2008 Summerfest Series to preserve and promote the cultural significance of the blues. Rather than the touch of Gershwin, smattering of Ellington, and whole lot of schmaltz that symphonies often fall into when doing jazz and blues retrospectives, the N.C. Symphony, under resident conductor William Henry Curry, will perform honest blues fusion with the duo. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. for $20-$22. —Andrew Ritchey
Nikki Meets the Hibachi
Caffe Driade—To hear Nikki Meets the Hibachi—late '80s originators Elaine Tola and John Gillespie, these days joined by percussionist Arturo Velasquez—in a place like Caffe Driade is to experience their sound in its natural habitat. The trio's gorgeous, emotion-blooming acoustic pop, the kind that ends up a soundtrack for a great love, is a dish best served intimate. Be at your table by 8 p.m. —Rick Cornell
Lincoln Theatre—These days, the most depressing thing about a Cham concert is that Alicia Keys and her lovely lower lady lumps aren't there to help Cham perform their 2006 chart topper, "Ghetto Story." Other than that, Cham's frenzied performances—highlighting his progressive, hip-hop spin on traditional dancehall riddims—are enough to make you stop idol-worshipping his now-estranged mentor, Bounty Killer. Gear up and witness how Cham's lyrical approach strangely acts more as a party invitation than a lecture, and how his ascendance to becoming Jamaica's righteous rude boy has often begged the question, "Is he the next Sean Paul?" Well, let's hope not. Tickets are $20-$25. —Eric Tullis