Last year's Tempest might have been Bob Dylan's best-received album in a decade, but what's new and what's old hardly matters when the songwriter takes the stage these days. His performances are bound to attract detractors, as he sings somewhere between a murmur and a slur. But with a whipsmart band at his side, Dylan takes audiences on a five-decade game of musical charades by redressing the hits and the anthems in shapes so strange that you might not be able to spot the tune until the chorus. In a music market where indie rock bands reunite to play only the hits and to take home the payload, Dylan's insistence not only on touring but on playing these songs as he damn well sees fit is reinvigorating. Yes, a little more enunciation might be nice, but Dylan has long offered bountiful rewards to the closest listeners. Mere weeks away from age 72, he hasn't changed a bit, at least in that respect. Los Angeles folk-rock band Dawes opens. Thursday, May 2, at Red Hat Amphitheater. $40–$73.90/7:30 p.m.
The long-running Swedish crews Opeth and Katatonia are rightly known for making some of the metal world's more intricate music. Opeth offers fully formed prog, with long and ornate lulls bifurcating moments of forceful drama. Their tracks and performances tend to stretch toward forever—a blessing or a curse, depending on the particular piece or your personal preference. Katatonia condenses things, though, building tighter songs and themes into albums that are no less involved and arguably more riveting. Last year's Dead End Kings was strong, but their extensive back catalog is stronger still. Show up expecting to stay a while. Sunday, May 5, at Lincoln Theatre. $26–$30/8 p.m.
Carrboro Block Party
In the last decade, the Triangle has produced a number of nationally celebrated upstarts. Two of those bands, Lost in the Trees and The Love Language, favor large ensembles taken to very different ends: Led by Ari Picker's keening croon, Lost in the Trees back songs of emotional surrender with arrangements that fight that tide by pairing bold rock to classical devices. In The Love Language's worldview, big sounds bolster big hooks, with rising walls of keyboards, guitar and percussion pushing beneath frontman Stu McLamb's half-sad, half-smirking croon. They'll co-headline this free party for Carrboro Day, while two Midtown Dickens refugees open with their new quivering alt-country act Loamlands. Look for more music inside Cat's Cradle and The ArtsCenter. See carrboroblockparty.com. Sunday, May 5, at Cat's Cradle. Free/4–9 p.m.
For more than a decade, area organization Band Together hasn't only used music and corporate sponsors to raise large sums of money for charities in need; they've also used unyielding ambition. By setting large goals (they hope to raise $850,000 for the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities) and bringing large bands to large stages, they've continually generated spectacles and statements. Graceful and wry songwriter Lyle Lovett headlines Band Together's big-ticket show this year. The tradition-revitalizing Chatham County Line and the boisterus Delta Rae open, representing rather extreme ends of North Carolina roots music. Also, Mac and Juice Quartet. Saturday, May 4, at Koka Booth Amphitheatre. $34.50–$150/5 p.m.
Rhode Island's Brown Bird typically gets reduced as a co-ed folk duo, but that's a dreadfully limited representation of what they actually do. Making music more suited for the hookah bar than the coffee shop, MorganEve Swain and David Lamb twist tendrils of Middle Eastern melodies, heavy metal brood and cabaret esprit across songs that provide ample space for their wonderfully disjointed harmonies and off-kilter cadences. Violin, upright bass and guitar join the insistent trot of foot percussion, creating a quartet better suited for the economy. The two often sing about politics and socioeconomics (their latest, the intriguing Fits of Reason, includes a cut called "Hitchens"), but again, the material sounds too personal and personable to fit the stereotypes. With Last Good Tooth. Friday, May 3, at Local 506. $10–$12/9 p.m.
No BS! Brass Band
The live reputation of No BS! Brass Band generally precedes the Richmond 10-piece. Their shows, after all, are sweltering and kinetic parties, with horns providing buoyant hooks and the rhythm section keeping mighty restless. But they'll release two albums this summer: a tribute to Charles Mingus and RVA All Day, a jubilant set that suggests they're much more than a one-night stand. With Brand New Life. Saturday, May 4, at the Pour House. $8–$10/10 p.m.
"Lindsy," the glowing lead track on a recent EP from itinerant songwriter Jason Anderson, confirmed something that had long lurked beneath the surface of his music: He's the Bruce Springsteen of DIY spaces and truly independent labels. While "Lindsy" builds upon a big rock band with saxophone and piano, the real similarity happens in the voice, particularly with the warmth that Anderson affords his characters and listeners. His tone suggests an old friend, delighting with tales of the places he's been since you last connected. He's a charismatic performer, equally fond of a good sing-along and story. With Des Ark and Holy Boats. Wednesday, May 8, at The Pinhook. $7/9 p.m.
Mandolin Orange began as a duo, with the alternately sentimental and observational songs of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz decorated by steady seams of guitar, mandolin, fiddle and harmonies that never felt forced. Over their two-album career, they've tinkered with a rock band rhythm section and, most recently, trio and quartet formations featuring multi-instrumental sideman Josh Oliver. They return to their original state for this show, delivering tunes so well-rendered that they've rarely suffered from limited membership. Ryan Gustafson—a songwriter with a gift for embedding devastating lines within beautiful blues—opens without The Dead Tongues, his full band of late. Friday, May 3, at Kings. $10–$12/9 p.m.
The classical violinist and classic performance artist Amadéus Leopold is a master of his instrument, of course, a child prodigy now hellbent in his 20s on pushing beyond symphonic mores. But his mix of high fashion and high drama, minimal design and maximum affectation never seems shocking so much as very intriguing. He tests limits without breaking through them, striking a strange parallel to Kanye West, another occasionally defiant and sometimes defeated cult of ostensible individuality. Friday, May 3, at Carolina Theatre. $26–$46/8 p.m.
Anna Rose Beck
The tunes of Durham writer Anna Rose Beck still seem in development. She is interested in weeping country and whispering folk, but to date, those compulsions pair strangely within her songs. But her voice is fully formed, with a reserved incandescence that would make numbers much less remarkable worth hearing. The clearest comparison might be Nick Drake, a singer who, like Beck, could express and arrest with unspeakably slight singing. Wednesday, May 8, at Broad Street Cafe. Free/8 p.m.
An album, an EP and a slew of singles into his career, Brad Oberhofer seems to have determined at least one thing about his ideal sound: He desperately wants to be current. Indeed, his act Oberhofer makes indie pop that pulls at will from the last decade of the popular kids, from The Strokes' thin guitars and The Walkmen's grand builds to Vampire Weekend's precision and most everyone else's white-guy dance beats. It's a mess of indecision that's likable in spurts but, over the course of a record or set, unbearably pandering. With Celestial Shore and Wool. Saturday, May 4, at Kings. $8–$10/9 p.m.
The Airborne Toxic Event
"Timeless" is the lead single from Such Hot Blood, the third album by California quintet The Airborne Toxic Event. In the past, the band has specialized in music suited for car and credit card commercials, with friendly hooks that emerged from apparent ether. It was vapid, harmless and fine. But "Timeless" suggests that the group is aiming for something more than 30-second spots, with production that demands everyone pay attention now. Too dumb to be Coldplay and too serious to be The Fray, The Airborne Toxic Event's gone poisonous for its second major-label release. With Kodaline. Monday, May 6, at Cat's Cradle. $18–$20/8 p.m.