The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame looks empty without NRBQ and Tower of Power. Two of our greatest bands both play here this week. Tonight at the Cohoes Music Hall, Tower of Power specializes in phat Oakland funk, and on Friday at the Egg, NRBQ specializes in everything.
Tonight, Tower of Power plays the biggest show yet at the revived Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St.): 10 players, with decades of hip tunes.
The five horns get all the glory and sideman gigs on records and tours. But the rhythm section makes this extra-durable big band rock and swing, as I had the vivid opportunity to discover in a one-band lesson in the groove from drummer David Garibaldi and bassist Rocco Prestia, watching from the rear of the stage at Alive at Five in 2003.
I saw them wake up a stiff audience at The Egg in 2006, then open the ears of everybody at the Congo Square stage in New Orleans in 2008. “Making their Jazz Fest debut, in a town full of ace horn players, whose streets seem to throb with funk backbeats, they earned new fans by the thousands,” I wrote then. “Nobody sat down after halfway through the first song. On the same stage where hometown hero Trombone Shorty had ripped it up hours before, Tower of Power, the pride of Oakland, put it all back together.” 8 p.m. $79, $69, $59. 745-3000 www.palacealbany.com
NRBQ’s “High Noon — a 50-Year Retrospective” roams their omnivorous range, excites our dancing feet and elbows us in the ribs with jokes. Forward-looking, the five-CD set starts with 2005-16 material. It’s music for the head, heart, feet and funnybone, music that has tickled and tuned up audiences here since 1969 when their first album hit and they rocked Schenectady’s Aerodrome instead of Woodstock.
My brother Jim Hoke saw them at the Aerodrome and it changed his life; he’s since played hundreds of ’Q shows including their live albums “God Bless Us All” (’87) and “Diggin’ Uncle Q” (’88). I first caught them in the early ’80s at J.B. Scott’s where they closed their set — then encored! — with “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and took requests in the Magic Box. I’ve seen NRBQ more times, in more places, than any other band, from cozy clubs to campuses, from raucous rock and roll bars to festivals and First Night in Saratoga Springs. They always surprise, always in a fun way.
After a hiatus broken only by 35th anniversary shows in Northampton in 2004, keyboardist/co-founder Terry Adams introduced his Rock and Roll Quartet at WAMC’s The Linda in 2007, recording the live set “Crazy 8s” there under that name before re-naming his new crew NRBQ in 2011. Adams remains NRBQ’s sparkplug and guiding principle, a pianist as prolific as he is powerful. Leading NRBQ, he’s made 21 studio albums, 11 live sets, plus compilations and projects with the late, great country singer Skeeter Davis, wrestling manager Lou Albano, and Spongebob Square Pants.
NRBQ recorded the live “We Travel the Spaceways” (’12) in Bearsville and released “Brass Tacks” in 2014. They love making records, but their great gift is performing live. As others have said and any ‘Q fan will agree, they make you feel young, with the discovery of rock ‘n’ roll as loud, fresh fun. NRBQ plays Friday at The Egg (Swyer Theatre, Empire State Plaza, Albany). 8 p.m. $29.50 473-1845 www.theegg.org
Who’ll play WGNA’s Secret Star Acoustic Jam at Proctors on Wednesday? You’ll just have to go to find out: Performers aren’t announced in advance, but past performers in this series include Dan + Shay, Michael Ray and Canaan Smith, Easton Corbin (recently at the Times Union Center), Rodney Atkins and others. The series serves as introduction to stars in the making, who are unlikely to play anywhere as cozy and cool as Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady) again. 7 p.m. $34, $29, $24, $19. 346-6204. www.proctors.org www.wgna.org
Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]