Jukebox: Prog-rock/fusion pioneers open Egg weekend

Singer Lisa Fischer steals spotlight Friday night
Brand X is at The Egg tonight.
Brand X is at The Egg tonight.

Categories: Entertainment

The Egg reaches back this weekend, presenting 1970s prog-rock/fusion veterans Brand X tonight and singer Lisa Fischer, who explodes from the background into the spotlight, on Friday.

Original Brand X guitarist John Goodsall and bassist Percy Jones lead Brand X, who came at fusion from the rock side. Newbies Chris Clark, keyboards; Scott Weinberger, percussion; and drummer Kenny Grahowski, drums, fill out the famously busy sound that energized groundbreaking albums including the aptly named 1976 debut “Unorthodox Behavior.” That same year, Weather Report’s “Black Market,” Jean-Luc Ponty’s “Imaginary Voyage,” Return to Forever’s “Romantic Warrior,” Stanley Clarke’s “School Days,” Ornette Coleman’s “Dancing in Your Head” and other albums defied music’s border patrol to make fusion from the jazz side; but I digress. $36. 7:30 p.m. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org

“Twenty Feet from Stardom,” an exciting film tribute to background singers, brought the same belated-but-beautiful attention to Lisa Fischer as “Searching for Sugar Man” did for Rodriguez. Fischer sang most visibly with the Rolling Stones, also with Tina Turner, Chaka Khan (proving Khan’s courage in singing alongside Fischer, a human brass and cello section) and many more.

Fischer was ready when her turn came, earning a Grammy for her song “How Can I Ease the Pain” and forming a muscular, versatile touring band, Grand Baton, who’ll back her at The Egg on Friday. 8 p.m. $34


Caffe Lena presents established faves and new faces, starting with Canadian Berklee-trained fiddler-singer-stepdancer April Verch and her band — Cody Walters, bass and banjo; Alex Rubin, guitar — tonight. Just 39, she’s made 11 albums: “The April Verch Anthology” is a tuneful treat. The Ryanhood duo opens: singer Cameron Hoods and guitariset/mandolinist Ryan Greens. 7 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children. 583-0022. www.caffelena.org

Veteran troubadour Roy Book Binder (73 last week), a protégé of the Rev. Gary Davis and keeper of the acoustic blues flame since 1968, takes over on Friday. 8 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children

Woodstock’s The Band-inspired Professor Louie & the Crowmatix, veterans like Book Binder, rock the Caffe on Saturday. 8 p.m. $20 advance, $22 door, $11 students and children

On Sunday, the Bobs sing the wildest, weirdest a cappella around at the Caffe. First time I heard them harmonize on “Purple Haze” (Hendrix) and “White Room” (Cream) I fell on the floor laughing, then marveled at the voices. This is their last tour, so if you love great voices twisted in strange ways, catch them now. 7 p.m. $22 advance, $25 door, $13.50 students and children

Aztec Two-Step (Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman) has played powerful, evocative pop-folk here since their debut album hit in 1972. On Saturday they return to the Eighth Step at Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady) with fresh tunes from “Naked,” their first new release in a decade. 7:30 p.m. $28 advance, $30 door, $50 front and center with 6:30 meet-and-greet. 518-434-1703 www.8thstep.org


On Saturday, guitarist Reeves Gabrels brings his Imaginary Friends trio to the Hangar (675 River St., Troy). Gabrels played on many David Bowie albums and tours, and with the Cure. A daring improviser, he dances between songs and sheer noise. 8 p.m. $20. 518-272-9740

Ray LaMontagne brings a stripped-down show to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.) on Sunday. On his five albums, LaMontagne usually sings with a soulful band, often with horns and background singers. But Sunday he brings just his guitar and Wilco bassist John Stirratt.

Ethan Gruska opens. 7 p.m. $75, $55. 273-0038 www.troymusichall.org


The Low Beat (335 Central Ave., Albany) again proves musicians are our most generous citizens with “To P.R., With Love” on Sunday. Benefiting the Hispanic Federation’s Unidos Disaster Relief Fund, the afternoon show features DJ Trumaster, JB aka Dirty Moses, the Holly & Evan Band, Apostrophe S, Wavy Cunningham & DJ Mercy and more. 2 p.m. $10. 432-6572 www.thelowbeat.com www.youcaring.com/ToPRWithLove

REARVIEW (Secondhand)

I didn’t see Amy Helm open the Massry Center (The College of Saint Rose) season last week, but guitarist friend Dan did. He said she played a short first set of what he’d expected from this accomplished, soulful singer, daughter of late, great giant Levon.

After a break, she spoke reverently of another late, great: Tom Petty. And she led her Handsome Gentlemen band through a thrilling run of Petty’s songs. “She just tore the roof off,” Dan reported. I hope Petty’s hard-hitting, versatile Heartbreakers, one of our best bands, rocks on.


The Massry Center (1002 Madison Ave., Albany) continues on Saturday with Marc Cohn. Much like fellow singer-songwriter-pianist Bruce Hornsby with “The Way It Is” (Hornsby plays the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall Oct. 21), Cohn’s varied, soulful blues-pop seems unfairly pigeonholed by a big hit, “Walking in Memphis.” But his music walks a wider boulevard.

Since he (like Fischer) came up as a background singer (with Tracy Chapman), Cohn has released eight albums — “Careful What You Dream” hit last year — won a Grammy, survived a carjack-shooting and kept rocking. 8 p.m. $50. 518-337-4871 www.massrycenter.org

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected].

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