Thursday, Dec. 1
1. Gunhild Carling: "America's Got Talent" was the perfect venue for Sweden's vivacious queen of swing. She sings, tap dances and plays many instruments, including the trombone and bagpipes. She's recorded with Postmodern Jukebox, notably on swing renditions of ABBA's "Dancing Queen" and Madonna's "Material Girl." With PMJ, Carling made a video of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" for which she played a host of instruments, including piano, harmonica and three trumpets at once. That was a novelty. She really can sing and swing, whether working solo or fronting her own big band, which recently performed at the Royal Palace in Stockholm in the celebration for King Carl XVI Gustaf's Ruby Jubilee. Carling kicks off a two-month U.S. tour in Minneapolis. (7 p.m. the Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., $40-$50, dakotacooks.com)
2. Bridget Kibbey: The Schubert Club has had some fascinating featured artists in recent seasons, but none has been a harpist. Then again, Kibbey is no ordinary harpist. She's known for opening listeners' ears to all sorts of sonic adventures, creating a cocktail of multiple musical cultures and several centuries worth of compositions. She'll open her residency with two International Artist Series recitals in the company of another star on the rise, violinist Alexi Kenney. (10:30 a.m., also 7:30 p.m. Fri. Ordway Concert Hall, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, $28-$75, schubert.org.)
Also: Rapper/producer Blanco Brown, best known for his 2019 country hit "The Git Up," rides into town (8 p.m. Varsity Theater, $25 and up); Twin Cities R&B/jazz piano legend Cornbread Harris, 95, is hosting another of his holiday concerts with friends at one of his favorite venues (7:30 p.m. Hook & Ladder Theater, $15-$20); cult-loved Maryland singer/songwriter Joe Pug returns with a revised version of his debut album featuring guests such as Jason Isbell and Brandon Flowers (8:30 p.m. Turf Club, $25); British dance-rock band Foals won some Brit Awards and more U.S. fans this year with their manic hit "Wake Me Up" (7:30 p.m. the Fillmore Minneapolis, $37); St. Paul guitar picking champ Pat Donohue & the Prairie All-Stars offer a holiday show (7 p.m. Crooners, $25-$35); Low's Alan Sparhawk returns to the stage with his for-fun funk band Derecho with Al Church (8 p.m. Icehouse, $12-$15).
Friday, Dec. 2
3. Ne-Yo: The '00s R&B star had a super-challenging lockdown. He and his wife split up, reconciled and renewed their marriage vows three months before his new album, "Self Explanatory," dropped in July. Then his wife filed for divorce in August, alleging infidelity. However the soap opera plays out, "Self Explanatory" is easily Ne-Yo's most autobiographical album. He fesses up about his faults in the new jack swing-styled "Handle Me Gently" and unleashes his falsetto on the agonizing "Don't Love Me." Those tunes fit in with his catalog of hits, including "So Sick" and "Sexy Love." And don't be surprised if the smooth crooner throws in some holiday tunes since he just issued a deluxe version of "Another Kind of Christmas," featuring such originals as "Talk About It" and "Christmas Vibez." (8 p.m. Mystic Lake Casino, 2400 Mystic Lake Blvd., Prior Lake, $49-$119, ticketmaster.com)
4. Claudia Schmidt: The veteran Midwest singer-songwriter, who is comfortable in both jazz and folk circles, celebrates her long and fruitful career and a new CD, "Reimagining," featuring new versions of 11 songs she originally recorded between 1981 and 2009. She made the record with a group of musicians from New England, where she has lived for several years. Schmidt, who once called Minnesota home, returns to the venerable St. Paul coffeehouse that has presented her over the years. (7:30 p.m., also Sat. Gingko, 721 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul, $20, gingkocoffee.com)
5. The New Standards: If last year's drum performance by a duck and the "fowl" jokes that followed are any indicator, fans of the Twin Cities jazz-pop trio's 15th annual holiday concerts can expect more jolly shenanigans along with the usual large cast of guest musicians this year. Co-leaders Chan Poling (of the Suburbs fame) and John Munson (Semisonic) each have rebounded from health scares in recent years, which has only made them less serious about this seriously fun tradition with both old-school holiday tunes and, ahem, new standards. (8 p.m., also 4 & 8 p.m. Sat. State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., $29-$134, ticketmaster.com)
Also: Bold 1990s star Sophie B. Hawkins celebrates the 30th year of her acclaimed debut, "Tongues & Tails," and her hit "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover," the homoerotic classic (7 p.m. the Dakota, $35-$45); the Blue Ox Music Fest's resident bluegrass hosts Pert Near Sandstone wrap up a year of touring back home in the Mainroom with pals Horsehoes & Hand Grenades (8 p.m. First Avenue, $25); harmonizing couple the Jorgensens, featuring local pub vet Kurt and his wife Brianna, celebrate the release of their new album "American Soul" (7:30 p.m. Hook & Ladder Theater, $25); Jeff Arundel, the Twin Cities singer-songwriter with a James Taylor bent and a portfolio of clubs and restaurants, stages his 21st annual Holiday Variety Show with Molly Maher, the Hammsmen, Jomber & Pony and See the Change Treble Choir (8 p.m. Aster Cafe, $10); elegant but homey Minneapolis indie-folk star Humbird and her band are fresh off a year on the road and returning home for a two-night stand (8 p.m. Icehouse, $15, also Sat.); Martin Zellar, the beloved Gear Daddies frontman who calls Mexico home, visits for an acoustic show (6 & 8:30 p.m. Crooners, $40 and up); crooner Arne Fogel, Minnesota's resident Bing Crosby scholar, presents a Crosby Christmas (7:30 p.m. Crooners, $20-$30).
Saturday, Dec. 3
6. Impaler: Who would've thought that a veteran speed-metal band from St. Paul with a famously gory shock-rock stage show would have one of the longest-running holiday concerts in the Twin Cities? Lead demon Bill Lindsey and his crew put a fun, fast and fiery spin on the season with their annual Merry Krampus concert, based on the horned monster of Eastern European lore whose job it was to scare bad children. Obviously, the bad children are the stars of the show in this case. Plague of Stars and VolsungaSag also perform. (8:30 p.m. Hook & Ladder Theater, 3010 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls., $10-$15, thehookmpls.com)
Also: Leonid & Friends, 11 musicians from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, pay tribute to Chicago, an American band they've never seen in concert (8 p.m. Medina Entertainment Center, $36-$50); Twin Cities piano star Lorie Line continues her three-decades tradition of a holiday tour, going solo for the second consecutive year (3 p.m. Ames Center, also 3 p.m. Sun. Red Wing, $65); Greyson Chance, who created a stir as a tween on YouTube in 2010 that caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, dropped his third album, "Palladium," this fall and dissed Ellen for abandoning him (8 p.m. Skyway Theatre, $25-$75); exemplary vocalist Judi Vinar, who has performed with the Wolverines, JazzMN and Bobby McFerrin, does her holiday repertoire backed by the Wolverines Trio (4 p.m. Crooners, $20-$30); Janis-channeling local blues-rock singer Mae Simpson and her powerhouse band hit 7th St. Entry with Natalie Fideler (8 p.m., $15).
Sunday, Dec. 4
7. The Singers: One of the Twin Cities' most reliably beautiful Christmas concerts each year comes courtesy of this excellent chamber choir. In addition to new carol arrangements from conductor Matthew Culloton, they'll premiere a piece by Timothy Takach, and perform works by Reena Esmail, B.E. Boykin, Francis Poulenc and Stephen Paulus. (3 p.m. Westwood Lutheran Church, 9001 Cedar Lake Road, St. Louis Park; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 4801 France Ave. S., Mpls.; 2 p.m. Dec. 11, Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 1938 Stanford Ave., St. Paul, $35, singersmca.org.)
Also: On last year's "Holiday Swingin' (A Kat Edmonson Christmas Vol. 1)," the Texas songbird sprinkled a late-night jazz seasoning on yule favorites (including an urgent, organ-fueled treatment of "The Chipmunk Song") and such originals as "The Christmas Blues" (7 p.m. the Dakota, $35-$40); Twin Cities duo OK Factor — violinist Karla Colahan and cellist Olivia Diercks — collects 10 years of holiday music for the vinyl release of "OKXmas" featuring "Heralds," their mash up of "Ding Dong Merrily the Bells" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" (7 p.m. Parkway Theater, $15-$25); moody, stormy Kansas City rock band Shiner is getting out to tout an album issued in COVID and bringing back intense local rockers Houston for a rare gig to open (8 p.m. 7th St. Entry, $18).
Monday, Dec. 5
8. Five Finger Death Punch & Brantley Gilbert: Twin Cities fans will get a chance to see 5FDP as part of Metallica's newly announced M72 World Tour, but the Minneapolis date is not for another 20 months. In the meantime, the anthemic and formulaic Las Vegas metal stars of "Little Bit Off" radio rotation — whose new drummer Charlie Engen hails from St. Paul — are headlining arenas touting their ninth album, "AfterLife." They have their own interesting choice of openers on this tour in rocky Georgia country singer Brantley Gilbert of "Bottoms Up" fame. (6:30 p.m. Target Center, 600 1st Av. N., Mpls., $60-$170, ticketmaster.com)
Tuesday, Dec. 6
9. Leo Kottke: The pandemic ended the Hall of Fame guitarist's 40-year tradition of playing a Thanksgiving-time concert in his hometown. Then last year he bounced back with a run of fascinatingly improvised shows with percussionist Dave King at the Dakota. Now, Kottke returns to the Guthrie, his familiar haunt and the perfectly intimate venue to fully appreciate his fabulous fretwork and delightfully twisted sense of humor. The concert should be a double treat with globe-trotting Twin Cities guitarist Tim Sparks, from whom Kottke has taken lessons, opening, accompanied by bassist Gary Raynor. (7:30 p.m. Guthrie Theater, 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls., $45-$75, etix.com)
10. Rainbow Kitten Surprise: The quirky hippie soul-pop band behind the 2018 sleeper hit "It's Called: Freefall" has really caught fire over the past year. The Nashville quintet has caught on the old-fashioned way, selling out two nights at Red Rocks and landing many big festival gigs with their ultra-charming live show. It's also earning a new-era fandom as a TikTok favorite with an older track, 2015's "Cocaine Jesus." See what the buzz is about along with opening duo Twen. (8 p.m. the Armory, 500 S. 6th St., Mpls., all ages, $62, ticketmaster.com)
Also: Moore By Four, who have been putting jazzy pizazz into Twin Cities holidays since the 1980s, bring the yule spirit (7 p.m. Crooners, $35-$45); Minneapolis piano goddess Mary Louise Knutson is joined by vocal favorite Patty Peterson (7 p.m. the Dakota, $15-$25).
Wednesday, Dec. 7
Rootsy Los Angeles groovers Andy Frasco & the U.N. have built up a reputation at festivals in recent years with fun live shows and a rollicking sound that's like Sublime meets Low Cut Connie (8 p.m. Turf Club, $22); Twin Cities reggae-soul-rock vet Wain McFarlane is hosting "a family affair" with his granddaughter Clarq (7 p.m. the Dakota, $15-$25).
Classical critic Rob Hubbard contributed to this column.