Tonight is a good night for hearing the human voice in its most spectacular setting: the live stage. Up the hill at the Van Duzer Theater Ladysmith Black Mambazo brings its South African gospel finesse and Zulu footwork to crack the boards at 7 p.m. ($49). Although many in the industry of sound refer to Paul Simon's Graceland album as the best example of a gated drum sound from the big production days of the '80s, it is better known among fans as the introduction of this group's stunning vocal harmonies and melodies to the world stage. The years haven't slowed the singers down at all, so come join members old and new as they cover the group's half century catalog of peace songs. You can read my interview with tenor Albert Mazibuko at www.northcoastjournal.com.
Earl Thomas was born in Tennessee but he cut his teeth as a singer in our small town of Arcata while he was attending Humboldt State University in the 1980s. Perhaps best known on the charts for his tune "I Sing The Blues," which was a minor hit for Etta James, he has spent the last three decades building up a reputation as one of the greatest blues singers alive today. When he plays Humbrews tonight at 9:30 p.m., expect a fiery gutful of glorious heaviness ($18, $15 advance). Treat him like the returning hometown hero he is with a champion's welcome. He's earned it and then some.