Jukebox: Adams’, McLean’s roots run deep in this region

This weekend's musical offerings include many stars who've been here on the way up.
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The kid was highly touted, the next big thing from Canada in the era of fellow north-of-the-border stars Loverboy and Doug and the Slugs, playing his first U.S. show at J.B. Scott’s in 1980. He had a boyish look, a raspy voice, an agile, muscular rock band and terrific pop songs. Despite his huge potential star-power, he was modest and shy, like U2 was when it played the same now-vanished Albany club that same year. In a homecoming welcomed by his fans, former WQBK DJ Jack Hopke was on the tour, bringing the kid to JB Scott’s and anticipating great things from him.

Hopke was right: the kid was Bryan Adams, and since his U.S. debut here in Albany, he has scored 21 Top 10 hits of his own, written many more for other singers and sold 65 million records. With a new album “11” — his 11th of original songs — due next week, Adams returns here to play The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) tonight in a sold-out solo show at 8 p.m.

Another JB link

Steve Forbert also made his area debut at JB Scott’s — a few years earlier, when his debut album “Alive on Arrival” made him a star. Like Adams, Forbert generally performed then with a band; and, like Adams, he’s performing solo these days.

On Saturday, the Mississippi-born troubadour visits Club Helsinki (284 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.) with fresh songs from his new-ish album “Strange Names & New Sensations” and a catalog stretching back to the late-1970s classics “Romeo’s Tune” and “Lucky.”

Like Adams, who has some movie cameos to his credit (Clint Eastwood’s “Pink Cadillac” and Andrei Konchalovsky’s “House of Fools”), Forbert has spent some time before the camera, as Cyndi Lauper’s boyfriend in her video of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” However, like any other troubadour tagged as “the next Bob Dylan,” establishing his own identity wasn’t always fun, especially when record label troubles blocked Forbert from recording for six years. He has made up for lost time by becoming more prolific since: “Strange Names & New Sensations” is his 11th release this decade.

Show time for Steve Forbert at Club Helsinki is 9 p.m. Tickets are $20. Phone 413-528-3394 or visit www.clubhelsinkiweb.com.

McLean’s history

Most area fans of the old Bob Dylan — he turns 67 in 15 days — know he played Caffe Lena early in his career, 20 years before Bryan Adams or Steve Forbert rocked at JB Scott’s. In another bit of Lena lore, Don McLean was resident singer at the Caffe before a New York State Council for the Arts grant enabled him to travel throughout the Hudson Valley and learn plenty from mentor Pete Seeger on the first Clearwater cruise.

All that was before “American Pie,” which he is said to have introduced at the Caffe, launched the acoustic singer-songwriter to the summit of the folk-rock world in 1971. In 2001, the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment of the Arts voted the song No. 5 among the 365 “Songs of Century.” Even Madonna has recorded it.

McLean performs on Saturday at The Egg in a show sponsored by Caffe Lena. Show time is $34.50. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.

Gilkyson at Lena

The Caffe Lena-Egg connection continues: Eliza Gilkyson sings at the Caffe on Sunday after a string of recent shows there and at The Egg; and Hal Ketchum, who headlined a benefit at Caffe Lena that financed its piano, returns to play The Egg on Thursday.

Austin-based Gilkyson has a new album in the works — “Beautiful World” hits stores just three days after Dylan’s birthday. It’s her first collection of new songs in three years, her first release since last year’s live “Your Town Tonight,” and it’s a thing of rare and startling beauty.

When Gilkyson plays in our town, it’s a special occasion of plainspoken lyrics, antique-sounding melodies and arrangements, and angry Texas populism. Her songs are pungent or sweet; or sometimes both at once, and her gentle, grown-up voice carries them beautifully.

Show time for Eliza Gilkyson on Sunday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) is 7 p.m. Admission is $20, $18 for Caffe members. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.com.

Ketchum at Egg

Greenwich-born Ketchum returns fairly regularly to play here, but consecutive shows by the restless singer-songwriter are usually very different. In one recent showcase, he brought many of the hometown players — notably the Warren Brothers — he worked with here from age 15.

Despite often changing up his live show, Ketchum’s career consistently demonstrates the close kinship between narrative country songs and folk music. A carpenter before his music career took off when other singers started recording his songs, Ketchum crafts sturdy melodies and graceful lyrical lines, assembling songs so carefully the seams never show.

Show time for Hal Ketchum on Thursday at The Egg is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $24.

Bromberg at WAMC

Also next Thursday, David Bromberg, who has played many times at The Egg and everywhere else around here, plays at the Linda Norris Auditorium of the WAMC Performing Arts Studio (339 Central Ave., Albany). He leads the quartet version of his elastic band.

Angel Band, the vocal trio of Bromberg’s wife, Nancy Josephson, with Jen Schonwald and Kathleen Weber, opens the 8 p.m. show and probably will sing with the quartet, too. Angel Band is a strong unit in its own right, with a new album “With Roots & Wings” due on the same day as Gilkyson’s new album and produced by Lloyd Maines, who played in Joe Ely’s band in the 1980s and has produced the Dixie Chicks albums.

Admission to David Bromberg, and Angel Band, on Thursday at WAMC is $37. Phone 465-5233 or visit www.wamcarts.org.

Categories: Life and Arts

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