CIRQUE DU SOLEIL ‘SALTIMBANCO'
3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Alltel. $40-$90.
Give it up for French-Canadian contortionists in really bizarre costumes! The oldest major touring show of Cirque du Soleil, “Saltimbanco” was the first production in which Cirque narrowed its focus to tell a themed story. The show is meant to be about multi-culturalism and new urbanism, but good luck wading through the allegory.
A taste from the Cirque website: “The Vers multicolores (or multi-colored worms) are symbols of conventionality. They all look the same in their unadorned costumes. The Vers masqués (or masked worms) are faceless and nameless. They are followers who never question the rules. The Baroques are independent, daring, a touch anarchistic and are true urbanites.” So now that you've got that CliffsNote, you can sit back and enjoy the Chinese pole acrobatics; aerial, bungee-propelled ballet; men balancing, on one hand, on other men's heads; high flying trapeze work and of course, a lot more indescribable stuff. The show continues at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.
10 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
Name me another cover band with at least four dudes who've toured nationally. Or one with a drummer who drives four hours for gigs. How 'bout one that's a side gig for its members' myriad, awesome local projects — like the Boondogs, Big Silver, the Easys, Jim Mize and the Germans, Western Meds. No sense in trying. There's none apart from the Libras, Little Rock's favorite theme-night-obsessed cover band. Last we saw the dudes, they were doing an unpracticed, raw night of dead Beatles covers. Folks got down. The bar at White Water probably pulled in more than any other night of the week, and we weren't at all mad at the band. But where precision helps in Beatle pop, the songs of Bob Dylan lend themselves to the kind of shambolic jam the Libras do best. Look for lead vocals from Jason Weinheimer (Boondogs), Greg Spradlin and Isaac Alexander (Big Silver, Easys). The other guys — Chris Michaels, Dylan Turner and Charles Wyrick — could probably be plied into singing with booze. Or you could probably buy your own way onto the mic with booze. It's a drunkards' marketplace. Bonus points: Dave Easely, the serene and talented pedal steel whiz from New Orleans, opens and sits in with the Libras.
TH' LEGENDARY SHACK*SHAKERS
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $8 adv./$10 d.o.s.
Like Colonel Sanders, Muhammad Ali and Mae West, J.D. Wilkes, the wiry, often shirtless lead singer of Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers, is a Kentucky colonel. It's an honorary designation handed down to famous Kentuckians by the governor — like the Arkansas Traveler, but more provincial and unique. That extra air of gravitas befits Wilkes, whom Hank Williams III has called “the best damn frontman…in America,” though it might seem a bit incongruous when Wilkes takes the stage and starts raving like Iggy Pop in a Pentecostal church. Touring behind “Swampblood,” the third and final installment of the band's Dixie-fried survey of the “new American gothic,” the Shack*Shakers might easily get dismissed as Southern shtick if their stylistically ever-shifting music wasn't so arresting. Look onstage for signs of Wilkes' side gig as a visual artist — haunting, carnival-style paintings. In the opening slot, Little Rock's Josh the Devil and the Sinners, a punkabilly band that treads ground similar to the Shack*Shakers', plays its final show.
8 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $36.50-$46.50.
Few singer/songwriters toe the line between whimsy and poignancy like John Prine. Reared in the late-'60s Chicago folk scene, Prine caught the ear of Kris Kristofferson, who was key to helping him land a record contract. With a quick succession of albums in the early '70s, the country-folk crooner struggled on the charts, but on the strength of songs like “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone” and “Grandpa Was a Carpenter,” he became much beloved among his fellow performers. Bette Midler, the Everly Brothers and other artists covered his songs, and Bob Dylan appeared anonymously at one of his early shows, backing him on harmonica. In the years that have followed, Prine's refused to be pigeonholed, recording a decidedly non-folk album with Stax guitarist Steve Cropper, forming his own record label and putting out an album of duets featuring Prine's favorite “girl singers.” In 1998, Prine was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. He underwent surgery and treatment. Ten years later, at 61, he's still trucking along as ever before. Last year he released “Standard Songs for Average People” with bluegrass legend Mac Wiseman. His voice has a bit of a sandpaper edge to it now, but don't expect that to do anything but add weight to his deep catalog. The groove-folk collective Kane Welch Kaplan opens.
8 p.m., Alltel Arena. $49.50-$79.50.
Say it with me: “Boo-blay.” Two years after his first appearance at Alltel, the Canadian crooner returns on Saturday bolstered by a firmly established international stardom. For those of you who don't follow Canadian pop music, or who didn't catch Buble on “American Idol” or “X Factor” last year, or who haven't heard his interpretation of standards on commercials for Starbucks and ESPN poker, the vocalist is a throwback, an adherent of the jazz/swing era who recalls crooners like the Mills Brothers and Sinatra. Like his forebears, Buble wraps his silky, smooth voice around standards and contemporary pop alike. On his latest album, “Call Me Irresponsible,” he covers “I've Got You Under My Skin” along with Willie Nelson's “Always on My Mind” and Clapton's “Wonderful Tonight” (interpreted here as a bossa nova). Look out for swooning ladies of all ages.
AMERICAN PRINCES/ J. RODDY WALSTON AND THE BUSINESS
9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
The American Princes' new record, “Other People,” doesn't come out until April 14, but it's been done for months, and you've got to think the fellas are ready to start playing it live. Recorded with Chuck Brody, who's worked with the likes of Peter, Bjorn and John and the Wu-Tang Clan, the album has a sparkly '80s sheen to it, full of buoyant guitar work and dozens of sing-a-long hooks. The lyrics are as sharp as ever. Collins Kilgore and David Slade continue to split vocal duties, and relatively new guitarist Will Boyd offers up a way-impressive vocal contribution on one track. It's easily the band's best release. For a home crowd at White Water, expect plenty of back-catalog material, too. Most everyone will know the words. If the most beloved local band trying to make it big isn't enough of a draw, how about perhaps the most beloved touring band to play Little Rock regularly? Based in Baltimore, J. Roddy Walston and the Business return to Little Rock for the fifth or sixth time in a year. They've amassed a passionate local following thanks to their raucous piano-driven rawk.
2 p.m. and 5 p.m., Robinson Center Music Hall. $40-$75.
The Cos. Take a moment to consider his cultural impact: He was the first African-American to star in a dramatic role on network TV on “I Spy”; the patriarch of the defining family sitcom of the '80s; the dedicated wearer of putrid rainbow sweaters; the creator of “Fat Albert”; the spy in “Leonard Part 6”; the piano player on the great, rare jazz-funk album “Badfoot Brown & the Bunions Bradford Funeral Marching Band”; the ghost dad in “Ghost Dad”; the goader in “Kids Say the Darndest Things”; the Jell-O pudding man. Now he's 70. In the last couple years, he's been in the news for criticizing poor blacks' parenting skills (drawing enough of the ire of Michael Eric Dyson to inspire the cultural critic to write a book called “Is Bill Cosby Right?”) and for denouncing the content of rap music. If the Internet rumor mill is to be believed, he's even gearing up to release a clean rap album of his own that'll touch on social issues like teen pregnancy and drug abuse. So keep your fingers crossed that polemicist Cos and crotchety rapping Cos aren't on tour.
9 p.m., Sticky Fingerz. $7.
Black Mountain's new album is called “In the Future.” Surely, that's a joke. The record is a totem to epic, druggy music of the late '60s and '70s, with nods to Hawkwind, Jefferson Airplane, Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Velvet Underground, even Rush. That mismash of prog, acid-rock and proto-metal may sound like first-class wankery — one of the album's centerpieces is 16 minutes long, after all. But these Vancouverites never drift so far into their influences that the immediacy of the music is lost. Much of the credit goes to Stephen McBean and Amber Webber, whose vocal interplay is always arresting. Bon Iver performs indie-folk in the opening slot along with the psych-rock stylings of Nomadic Nordic.