Live Music

Now Hear This: 6 NYC Concerts You Can’t Miss This May

From cartoon classical to Senegalese world beat, we’ve got you covered for the best upcoming shows in the city.

Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Bowl

Stop to hear the music this May. These six diverse, exceptional shows will help you get the best out of the end of spring and have you primed for a spectacular summer—with all of its top-shelf music festivals—ahead.

Wakanda Forever

Photo by Adrain Boot/Courtesy of the Town Hall

Senegalese troubadour Baaba Maal is arguably Africa’s best-known contemporary musician—especially since crushing the Black Panther soundtrack. Following the local release of dozens of tapes throughout the ’80s, Maal broke through to the world market in 1989 with Djam Leelii, his haunting guitar and vocal duet with master griot Mansour Seck. Thirty years and more than a dozen LPs later, Maal’s first show in New York City in nearly a decade presents a different sort of collaboration, this time with the all-star collection of American jazz and rock instrumentalists who make up the Town Hall Ensemble. Featured players for this evening of Afropop fusion include WSWD fave trumpeter Bria Skonberg, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, cellist Marika Hughes, and bandleader Steven Bernstein.

Baaba Maal With the Town Hall Ensemble
The Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street (between Sixth Avenue and Broadway), Midtown
Saturday, May 4
8 p.m.
Tickets start at $47

She’s Got the Juice

Photo by Luke Gilford/Courtesy of Atlantic Records

There’s no denying that the Houston-born/Minneapolis-based rapper and diva-in-waiting Lizzo is having a moment. I first scoped her back in 2013 when she made a minor Internet splash with the banger “Batches & Cookies.” That song’s video served as a mission statement for Lizzo’s future work: LGBTQ friendly, body positive, female forward, shamelessly horny, and relentlessly energetic. Her new album, Cuz I Love You, finds the singer in breakout mode with the multimillion-stream Bruno Mars-esque hit “Juice” and the Missy Elliott duet “Tempo.” A hot set at Coachella, live appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live, plus this sold-out show at Brooklyn Steel (it’s worth scoring tickets through a reseller) gives further proof that 2019 is bound to be Lizzo’s year. If you get shut out from seeing her in May, clear your schedule for her return on September 24 at Radio City Music Hall.

Brooklyn Steel
319 Frost Street, Williamsburg
Sunday, May 12 and Monday, May 13
8 p.m.

What’s Opera, Doc?

Photo by Chris Lee/Courtesy of New York Philharmonic

Even those of us with little or no exposure to classical music can still hum a bit of Wagner and Rossini thanks to a thousand childhood viewings of the iconic Looney Tunes animations scored by the impossibly prolific composer and arranger Carl Stalling. He was responsible for, among hundreds of other scores, the music behind the fondly remembered “What’s Opera Doc?” and “Rabbit of Seville” Bugs Bunny cartoons. Those immortal toons and many more will play on the big screen at David Geffen Hall, with live accompaniment by conductor George Daugherty and the entire New York Philharmonic. This two-hour program is billed as being appropriate for ages 4 and up; bring the whole family and be entranced by the sights and sounds of Bugs at his classical best.

New York Philharmonic: Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II
David Geffen Hall
Lincoln Center Plaza (at Broadway and West 65th Street), Upper West Side
Friday, May 17 and Saturday, May 18
Tickets start at $60

Vocal Magic 

Photo by John Edward Mason/Courtesy of the Jewish Museum

Meredith Monk’s voice is difficult to describe, almost universally lauded, and one of the most sui generis instruments of the 20th century. Now in her mid-70s, Monk continues to infrequently perform live alongside members of her vocal ensemble. This value-priced concert at the uptown Jewish Museum is organized by the avant-garde musical collective Bang on a Can. Arrive early, as your ticket also grants access to (and is partially inspired by) the museum’s current Leonard Cohen exhibition, “A Crack in Everything.

Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble Copresented by Bang on a Can
The Scheuer Auditorium at the Jewish Museum
109 Fifth Avenue (at East 92nd Street), Upper East Side
Thursday, May 23
8 p.m.

Back-to-Back Neo-Soul

Photo courtesy of Jamila Woods/Facebook

Following the industry ascension of Chance the Rapper, Chicago’s rap and neo-soul game has never been stronger. Fans of that local scene can catch a pair of Illinois’s likeliest contenders for the next big thing in NYC, with showtimes staggered on the same night. Poet Jamila Woods’s originally self-released Heavn was one of my favorite albums of 2016; I couldn’t be more excited that her follow-up LP, Legacy! Legacy!, will finally emerge in early May. Her contemporary, rapper Noname, released the critically acclaimed album Room 25 last year and has continued to surf on that LP’s popularity (and an excellent Tiny Desk Concert) to a spot in this year’s Governor’s Ball. Woods will hit the stage around 10 p.m. at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and Noname will be playing a late-night afterparty set at Brooklyn Bowl, allowing you to catch two of the Midwest’s best in one night.

Jamila Woods
Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North 6th Street, Williamsburg
Friday, May 31
9 p.m.

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg
Friday, May 31
11 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Noname

Looking for things to eat, drink, and do before and after the show? No prob.