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Weekend thumbnails: Downtown Minneapolis becomes a mecca of music

A tight downtown rectangle this weekend will contain more than a half-dozen music shows varied and enticing enough to satisfy most any taste and temperament, no matter how discerning.

The distance from Orchestra Hall to the Dakota on Nicollet to the string of theaters down Hennepin to First Avenue and the Target Center can’t be much more than 10 or 12 blocks, total. Yet, in that tight rectangle between now and Sunday night, there will be more than a half-dozen shows varied and enticing enough to satisfy most any taste and temperament, no matter how discerning.

Put succinctly, there are a lot of acts to cover in a short amount of space. So, suffice to say it is one of those charmed windows of opportunity to be a music fan in Minneapolis, and that all of these performances are heartily recommended.

Start with a program featuring two substantial classical works — Sir William Walton’s “Cello Concerto” and Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 8” — that already debuted Thursday morning but will be reprised tonight at Orchestra Hall. At first blush, it seems a little cheesy for the Minnesota Orchestra page showcasing the event to invoke an autumnal theme to describe the pieces, but in fact there is something clear and crisp and bittersweet, bordering on melancholy, that ties them together with the season and with each other.

The conductor will be Gilbert Varga — described on the same page as a “fiery Hungarian” — and the cellist is the orchestra’s in-house master, Anthony Ross, who is very capable of wringing the lustrous beauty out of the concerto’s against-the-norm, slow-fast-slow dynamic for the three movements, especially the rich opener.

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The Minnesota Orchestra plays Walton and Dvorak at Orchestra Hall, at 8 tonight; tickets $26-$84.

Kitty-corner from Orchestra Hall, the Dakota will be hosting a Bob Dylan tribute tonight in honor of his placement in the pavement along Hennepin Avenue’s Walk of Fame. There will be some high-profile folks with connections to Dylan career, including fellow travelers from his folksinging roots such as Spider John Koerner and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, plus the violinist Scarlett Rivera, who was recruited on the spot by Dylan for his Rolling Thunder Revue in the ’70s. But the real attraction here is Maria Muldaur, the playful blues thrush and former Jim Kweskin Jug Band member who put out an innovative collection of Dylan’s love songs four years ago that she’ll likely conjure forth in a manner that offers substantially more grit and range and emotion than her lone hit of yore, “Midnight at the Oasis.”

Bob Dylan Walk of Fame Tribute at the Dakota Jazz  Club and Restaurant, at 8 tonight, tickets are $40.

Move on to Saturday night and three rock-solid gigs along the Hennepin strip. Blues legend Buddy Guy turns 75 next June and thus isn’t quite as antic or relentless as he was a quarter-century ago, when Eric Clapton was appropriately pointing out how much he borrowed from Guy and the Chicago native sensed he could cross over into the commerical mainstream. But a less hepped-up Guy can be a blessing in disguise, as his string-stingin’ style has always been underrated for its technical subtlety on the coaxing, slower stuff, where he’ll never be B.B. King but can demonstrate chops beyond the flash and hammy mannerisms by which he’s best known.

Buddy Guy at the State Theatre, Saturday night at 8 p.m., tickets $42-$52.

While Guy delivers the goods at the State Theater, Sufjan Stevens will be showing his brand new album, “The Age of Adz,” across the street at the Orpheum. Some have wishfully called it Stevens’ follow-up to his wildly successful “Illinoise” CD from 2005, but those who have  been doggedly tracking the man’s forays to smaller venues in town like the 400 Bar and the Southern Theater know that Sufjan has moved beyond the sophisticated folk-pop of his “states project” into a hybrid that involves electronica and even modern classical music. In any event, Stevens’ desire to follow his muse wherever it takes him makes his live gigs consistently intriguing and usually worth the gamble.

Sufjan Stevens at the Orpheum Theatre, Saturday at 8 p.m., tickets $35.

For those who wants to stand and bounce rather than sit and sway, the Saturday gig of choice might be the Somali-Canadian rapper K’naan at First Avenue. In the golden days of hip-hop, K’naan might be dubbed a “backpack rapper” for the social consciousness and broader sensibility he brings to the game. But the thin dynamo really has carved out a unique niche, alternately singing songs with a reggae or r&b flavor and then flipping into sordid narratives of violence and poverty in his homeland that give the street-tough tales of gangsta rappers a run for their money.

K’Naan at First Avenue, Saturday at 7 p.m., tickets $21.

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Last but hardly least, a double dose of funky, intelligent hip-hop dance music hits the arena with Gorillaz and N.E.R.D. at Target Center Sunday night. Gorillaz is mostly the brainchild of former Blur frontman Damon Albarn, an orchestral Brit-popper with a refined appreciation for soulful beats and a juvenile’s delight in comic book fantasies. Helped along by such heavyweights at Danger Mouse and Dan the Automator, the Gorillaz phenomenon continues to grow with the recently released “Plastic Beach,” a long-in-the-making sequel to 2005’s “Demon Days.” The compelling opener is N.E.R.D., made up of Neptunes producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, who have their own new disc to hawk, titled “Nothing,” which has already spawned a hit single with Nelly Furtado.

Gorillaz and N.E.R.D. at Target Center, Sunday, October 17 at 7:30 p.m., tickets $51.50-$92.