Two of the most edgy, theatrical live bands ever to emerge from the Boston rock scene reunite this weekend. The hottest one may be the Dresden Dolls, singer/pianist Amanda Palmer’s early-aughts combo with drummer Brian Viglione, marking their second consecutive year of booking a few highly anticipated shows. This time, the alt-cabaret duo’s stoking the flames in more intimate fashion than last summer’s Blue Hills Bank Pavilion blowout, rolling into old stomping ground the Paradise Rock Club, where the Dresden Dolls appear Friday, Saturday and Monday.
But Friday also offers only the second return in two decades of new-wave avatars Human Sexual Response, returning to House of Blues, where the group slayed in 2012. HSR proved unique at the dawn of the ’80s – and remain that way, a septet with four singers (led vocally by Larry Bangor, though the others also took leads, including Casey Cameron on the group’s primary hit “Jackie Onassis”), traversing provocative songs of gay/straight sexual politics and sinuous art-rock crunch. Drummer Malcolm Travis later anchored Bob Mould’s Sugar, while guitarist Rich Gilbert served with Frank Black, Tanya Donelly and bands in his new Nashville hometown, where HSR just played a warm-up to glowing reports. Above all, a Human Sexual Response show provides uninhibited fun, even if the costuming isn’t as wild as Halloween 1984 (pictured). Be ready to shake and shimmy.
If creative hip-hop is more your thing, budding local heroes STL GLD – featuring rapper Moe Pope and producer the Arcitype, up for seven Boston Music Awards at House of Blues on Dec. 7 – steps out for a special show at Oberon in Harvard Square on Friday, performing with added textures from the One in the Chamber Orchestra. And if that’s not enough, the Sinclair boasts the Breeders, fronted by ex-Bostonian Kim Deal (it’s even your chance to hear her sing “Gigantic” since her former band the Pixies doesn’t play it). Also on Friday, New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas pairs with the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Berklee Performance Center, while Joan Osborne sings the songs of Bob Dylan at Sanders Theatre. At the Cabot in Beverly (a show moved from the yet-to-open City Winery), folk-pop luminary Shawn Colvin highlights her 1996 album A Few Small Repairs, with Americana couple Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams as guests. And Friday also brings Badfinger guitarist/singer Joey Molland to Arlington’s Regent Theatre to perform that band’s 1972 album Straight Up, including the hit “Day After Day.”
Saturday provides a chance to see the collaboration of Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, two artists from different sides of the globe (she’s from Australia, he’s from Philly) who respectively share a laconic twang, savvy songwriting and distinctive drawls. They share that joint chemistry on new album Lotta Sea Lice and bring it to the Orpheum Theatre that night with their band the Sea Lice, including guitarist Rob Laasko (the Violators, Swirlies) and drummer Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, the Jicks). Club Passim offers a folkier Saturday pairing with sisters’ act the Nields performing both an afternoon family set (covers welcome) and evening show. And drummer T.S. Monk (son of jazz icon Thelonious) performs at Scullers Jazz Club on Saturday before singer Janet Jackson finally hits TD Garden (following a 2016 tour break to start a family with her husband). Expect Ms. Jackson to bring the choreographed razzle-dazzle in the tradition of her original family.
Or if you’re up for a road trip and can’t find tickets for fusion legend John McLaughlin’s reportedly last tour with guest Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic, Aquarium Rescue Unit) at the Wilbur Theatre next Wednesday, a few tickets remain for the tour on Sunday at the Park Theatre in Cranston, R.I. If it’s not enough to see both of those great guitarists on one bill, they’ve been uniting in a tribute to McLaughlin’s legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra at the end of the night.