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‘Mystic India,’ ‘World Blues’ lend global aura

Thursday, October 31, 2013
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Taj Mahal, shown in this 2005 photo, will headline “World Blues” on Saturday at Proctors.
Taj Mahal, shown in this 2005 photo, will headline “World Blues” on Saturday at Proctors.

International attractions (though not Elvis Costello’s Attractions; we’ll get to that) play here this week.

On Friday, “Mystic India” — 65 performers strong — brings the spectacular Bollywood song-and-dance tradition to Proctors. Showtime is 8 p.m. and admission is $65, $50, $40, $30 and $20. 346-6204. www.proctors.org.

More familiar but just as international is “World Blues” on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Proctors, a kaleidoscopic celebration of American blues as inspired by African music and in turn cross-fertilizing it. Familiar, because I’ve seen headliner Taj Mahal play the Palace (with trio), QE2 (solo) and Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (trio again). I never saw him with his four-tubas band, though. (What, did he think he was in New Orleans?)

Taj is a force of nature: When he missed his train to open for Hot Tuna at the Palace, Hot Tuna wouldn’t play first, so things started very late. Taj came onstage to a Palace-ful of angry and, might as well say it, pretty drunk fans, yelling impatiently. He took over immediately and put the crowd in his pocket.

South African singer Vusi Mahlasela also plays on “World Blues.” A powerful and expressive voice from the townships tradition, he’s a huge sound propelled by principles. Opening is Fredericks Brown, the duo of Taj’s daughter Deva Mahal — she’s international all by herself, from New Zealand — and keyboardist Steph Brown. Admission to “World Blues” is $55, $40, $30 and $20.

This whole international parade starts tonight when Norwegian singer Jenny Hval hits Hudson Basilica (110 S. Front St., Hudson) on her first U.S. tour, playing music from “Innocence is Kinky” with her trio.

Bold, multidisciplinary — even transgressive, she messes with gender and other conventions; but nonetheless covers Paul Simon’s “The Cool, Cool River.” Hval plays as part of the Blakk Ballon Ball with Yamantaka, Sonic Titan and Tanz Praxis. Sounds just right for Halloween. Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is $15, students $10. 822-1050 www.basilicahudson.com.

With or without bands?

Elvis Costello plays a sold-out show on Wednesday at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, without either his longstanding band the Attractions (they’re together in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) or soul/R&B/hip-hop superband the Roots who play on his new album “Wise Up, Ghost.” He knows how to fly solo, though: He played the Palace solo years ago; opener Nick Lowe did the same.

Also playing here solo this week are guitarist-singer Mike Gent without his fellow Figgs on Friday at 8 p.m. at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany) and multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons without his fellow Carolina Chocolate Drops on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany).

Amazon Debutantes open for Mike Gent on Friday. 432-6572 www.valentinesalbany.com. All of the Figgs will play Valentine’s on Dec. 20 when Kittle Little opens.

Host-curator of the Linda’s American Roots Series Michael Eck opens for Flemons on Wednesday at The Linda. Admission is $20. 465-5233 ext. 4 www.wamcarts.org. All of the Carolina Chocolate Drops will play The Egg on Apr. 2.

North Country troubadour Bob Warren plays two shows on Saturday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) — with his band. In fact, he’s billed as Bob Warren and His Band on his superb now album “The Poet In Me.”

These are songs made and played by grown-ups, and not just because Warren bravely confronts tough, adult issues here. Band members are all masters — and Warren could call them his All Stars: bassist Tony Markellis (every band is better with Tony than without) drummer Danny Whelchel, singer Joy MacKenzie, cellist Monica Roach, keyboardist Matt Donnelly and guitarist Don Warren.

Shows are 6:30 and 9 p.m. Admission is $16 in advance, $18 at the door. 273-0038 www.caffelena.org. Bob’s shows tend to sell out so it’s a good thing this one streams live for $5 at www.concertwindow.com/shows/bob-warren.

Chicago

The Onion claims the band Chicago has the most-visited site on the Internet, with 2.5 billion daily page views, from which the veteran band sells almost as much Chicago-branded merch as Amazon does — of everything.

The Onion doesn’t exaggerate by much: The horn-powered pop group has scored Top 40 albums across six decades. The Onion story (www.theonion.com/articles/report-chicagothebandcom-most-visited-site-on-the,34316) wraps by announcing, in the (fake?) words of trumpeter Lee Loughnane, “And, hey, make sure to catch us at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady next Wednesday. It’s going to be a real good show.”

Show time for Chicago on Wednesday at Proctors is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $90, $75, $60, $45 and $20.

While Chicago plays opposite Elvis Costello on Wednesday (Chicago at Proctors, Costello at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall), folk-troubadour Tret Fure plays opposite “World Blues” basically in the same building.

Fure plays on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Underground at Proctors (former bargain basement of the Carl Co., 432 State St., Schenectady). Fure boasts a beautiful alto voice, superstar guitar skills and home-made lyrics of unarguable depth and infectious humor. Admission is $24. 434-1703 www.eighthstep.org.

Jazz genes

Catherine Russell comes by her talent honestly: Her pianist father Luis ran Louis Armstrong’s band and her mother Carline played bass and sang with Mary Lou Williams, Wynton Marsalis and other stars. Russell sings the fourth show at A Place for Jazz (First Unitarian Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave.) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. A backing vocalist with Paul Simon, David Bowie, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash and others, Russell launched her solo career in 2006 with “Cat.” Admission is $15. 393-4011 www.aplaceforjazz.org.

Short cuts

After breaking up in 1998 following 12 years on record and on the road, alt-rockers Toad the Wet Sprocket reformed sporadically from 2002 on and made it official, to welcoming cheers, in 2010 with new tours and new recordings. They play on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Massry Center at The College of Saint Rose (1002 Madison Ave., Albany).

Admission is $30; a $75 ticket includes a reception with gastro-pub fare, craft-beer tastings and concert ticket. 337-4871 www.massrycenter.org. Their “New Constellation” album hit earlier this month, so they’ll mix fresh tunes with tracks dating back decades.

OK, now, costume yourself like a rock fan, the stuff you’d normally wear to leave the house at midnight. That’s your Halloween outfit to go see six actual bands tonight at Valentines: Eastbound Jesus, Lucky Jukebox Brigade, the Blind Owl Band, Stellar Young, Black Mountain Symphony, and Olivia Quillio.

Show time is 8 p.m. and the music happens on both upstairs and downstairs stages. No tricks: at just $10 admission, this one is pure treat.

 
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