Colin Hay, 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3,
Barrymore Theatre, 2090 Atwood Ave., Madison. For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000.
Singer-songwriter Colin Hay gained fame as the voice of the Australian rock band Men At Work, singing lead vocals on such hits as “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now?”
The band formed in 1978, released a few commercially successful albums, and broke up in ’85. Hay then launched a solo career and has been touring and recording music ever since. He’s released 13 albums since his debut in 1987 and has developed a strong following over the past three decades.
Hay recorded a string of successful solo albums, beginning in 1987 with the release of “Looking for Jack.” He recorded four albums in the 1990s: “Wayfaring Sons” (1990), “Peaks & Valleys” (1992), “Topanga” (1994) and “Transcendental Highway” (1998). He released the latter after moving from Australia to California in 1995, when he stripped back his songwriting to the bare essentials of voice and guitar. He continued with that approach on “Going Somewhere” in 2000 and “Company of Strangers” two years later.
Hay’s output has remained strong since 2000. He’s released a total of eight albums, including “Next Year People” in 2015 and “Fierce Mercy” earlier this year. He is renowned for his live performances, which include humorous storytelling and banter with the audience in between his songs. He’s known for his rich baritone voice and adept finger-picking guitar style.
A documentary about Hay’s life, “Colin Hay: Waiting for my Real Life,” debuted at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August 2015. He lives outside Los Angeles and became a U.S. citizen in 2016.
Breaking Benjamin, 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, The Rave, 2401 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. For tickets, call 414-342-7283.
Vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Benjamin Burnley is the driving force behind Breaking Benjamin, a post-grunge/alternative metal band that formed in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1999. Apart from Burnley, the five-piece band has undergone a complete change of members in the years since it began.
The band has released five albums since its debut, including “Dark Before Dawn” in 2015. The album is a continuation of the band’s well-established sound, a mix of heavy hard-rock dynamics with a dark, moody demeanor. The album was well received by most music critics, many of whom praised it for staying true to the group’s sound, while others criticized it for sounding similar to previous material.
Burnley has cited Nirvana and The Beatles as key influences on his musical development, along with such bands as Pearl Jam, Bush and Stone Temple Pilots.
Breaking Benjamin went on hiatus in 2010 after a dispute between Burnley and two of the band’s original members, Aaron Fink and Mark Klepaski. Their disagreement was settled in court, but before the settlement, Burnley fired the two and established a new band using the same name in 2014. The new lineup has given the band more vocal depth and resulted in better harmonies and a richer sound.
Burnley has said in magazine interviews that his music took a leap forward in 2009, when he gave up alcohol.
His personal breakthrough came as he began working on the band’s fourth album, “Dear Agony.” He collaborated with guitarist Jasen Rauch on various tracks for the album and said, “I love writing with him because he does stuff exactly like I would’ve done,” adding, “writing-wise, we’re like the same person.” Rauch joined the band officially in late 2014.
Guns N’ Roses, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, BMO Harris Bradley Center, 1001 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000.
Guns N’ Roses burst onto the national scene in 1987 with the release of its first album, “Appetite for Destruction.” A single from the album, “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and helped propel “Appetite” to become the biggest-selling debut album in rock history with more than 30 million copies sold worldwide, according to the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll.
Despite the impressive start, the band has released only six albums in three decades. Its most recent album, “Chinese Democracy,” came out in 2008.
Early in its career, Gun N’ Roses quickly became controversial for lyrics disparaging certain minority groups. Band members were notorious for their use of heroin and other hard drugs, and it became known as “the most dangerous band in the world” after two fans were killed during a performance in August 1988 in England.
Lead singer Axl Rose was raised in a working-class family in Indiana and had a police record by the time he was 20. He worked with guitarist Izzy Stradlin in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, and the two joined forces with British-born guitarist Slash to form Guns N’ Roses in 1985. The band was known for playing hard rock and “a hedonistic rebelliousness that recalled the early Rolling Stones,” according to the Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll.
Original members Slash and Duff McKagan (bass) resigned in 1996 and ’97, respectively. They performed with the band in 2012 when Guns N’ Roses was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and have since rejoined.
Foo Fighters, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, Kohl Center, 601 W. Dayton St., Madison. For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000.
Multi-instrumentalist Dave Grohl formed Foo Fighters as a solo project in 1994 after the death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Grohl had been Nirvana’s drummer since 1990 and has said he was influenced—and intimidated—by Cobain’s songwriting and style.
Grohl reportedly wrote songs while still a member of Nirvana but kept them to himself. After Cobain’s suicide, Grohl entered a studio to record songs that would become the first Foo Fighters’ album.
Grohl played all the instruments on the self-titled first album, and he demonstrated a knack for writing pop music amid guitar-driven rock on the Foo Fighters’ nine albums, four of which won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album.
Grohl recruited three friends and put together a touring band in 1995. The group recorded its second album the next year, with Grohl writing and singing on each song, but arranging them collaboratively with the rest of the group.
Foo Fighters’ early music was reminiscent of Nirvana, a fact that Grohl acknowledged in an interview with the online magazine Pitchfork: “Through Kurt, I saw the beauty of minimalism and the importance of music that’s stripped down.”
The Chicago-based magazine described Grohl and the band as “his generation’s answer to Tom Petty—a consistent hit machine pumping out working-class rock.” Eventually, the band began alternating between acoustic and hard-rock versions of its music and has become recognized as a leader of the post-grunge scene that began in the Pacific Northwest.
The band’s latest album, “Concrete and Gold,” was released in September. Its songs center on Grohl’s concerns about the election of President Donald Trump and the future of the United States. He says the album’s themes are “hope and desperation.”