The Artscenter—For a while—let's pinpoint it as '89, when he was singing "Brand New Friend" on MTV and taking over Cat's Cradle for a memorable night—Lloyd Cole was the coolest guy on the planet. We're talking triple-whammy cool, too, the all-in-black style, the warts-and-all vocals, the highly literate writing that's so rare. He delivered enviable lines like: "Louise is the girl with the perfect skin/ She says turn on the light, otherwise it can't be seen/ She's got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin." And Lloyd was the guy with the perfect band: Rather ironically named Commotions, this group of musicians was too busy doing their jobs expertly to raise much of a ruckus.
Though Cole has been Commotions-less for nearly two decades now, he remains plenty cool, even if he did get a tad weird on us with 1993's Bad Vibes and its ill-advised funk forays. Think pieces of Dylan, Van Morrison, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, Marvin Gaye and Scott Walker, all wrapped up in a famous blue raincoat tagged "Made in Scotland." Fold in self-deprecating humor, a folksinger stance, and namedrops of Scarlett Johansson instead of Eva Marie Saint, and that's Lloyd Cole in 2008. Tickets are $20-$23, and the coolness commences at 8 p.m. —Rick Cornell
Memorial Hall, UNC Campus—Duke Professor of Music Composition Stephen Jaffe presents a new piece that correlates with the Nasher Museum of Art's exhibition El Greco to Velázquez: Art During the Reign of Phillip III. Covering both the secular and sacred, "Cithera Mea" embraces dances and traditional music of the time, realized by Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. The piece is subtitled "Spanish Notebook" for Jaffe's absorption and employment of his impressions of various forms of Spanish music; as he puts it in his notes, the sacred music was "among the purest and most sophisticated forms of polyphonic art," while day-to-day music was "rich in beguiling modal harmonies and in delicious dance rhythms." Look for this classical piece—in three parts—to move well. Presented with the N.C. Symphony at Memorial Hall on Thursday, and Meymandi Hall in Raleigh on Friday and Saturday. Tickets for Memorial range from $30 to $47; Meymandi has seats from $37 to $53. All shows start at 8 p.m. —Chris Toenes
Quail Ridge Books—Few great crime fiction characters get a proper sendoff—sure, Inspector Morse got his final moments in The Remorseful Day, but many suffer from either a non-ending or an unexpected reprieve, such as Sherlock Holmes' return from his trip over the falls. But Exit Music, Ian Rankin's 17th novel featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus, represents both a literal and figurative end to the character's career, as he faces one last case in the week before his retirement.
Rebus' career has unfolded in real time since his first adventure, Knots & Crosses, came out in 1987. Since then, the hard Scotsman has used his gruff, uncompromising nature to solve countless difficult investigations in Edinburgh, where many real-world locations appear in the novels. The series' continuity and unique use of its setting have made Rankin the best-selling mystery author in the U.K.; luckily, while Rebus might be retiring, Rankin has promised that the series will go on with Rebus' subordinates taking over for him. If you've never experienced Rankin's Edinburgh, you can get a hands-on introduction when Rankin appears at 7:30 p.m. to promote Exit Music. Despite his novels' darkness, Quail Ridge's owner Nancy Olsen warns that in person, Rankin is hilarious. For more info, visit www.quailridgebooks.com. —Zack Smith