The Dave Matthews Band returns to Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Friday and Saturday – an annual pilgrimage for band and fans – having sold more concert tickets (80 million!) than records (68 million CDs and DVDs) as reigning royalty with Phish and Dead & Co. of the jam realm.
These fat sales figures demonstrate the improvising rockers’ main strength is onstage, but they keep making records. Their new “Come Tomorrow” instantly topped the Billboard 200, their seventh studio release in a row to make that jump.
Meanwhile, the band has changed with the departure of longtime violinist Boyd Tinsley. The lineup is Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, guitars; Carter Beauford, drums; Stefan Lessard, bass; ex-Flecktone Jeff Coffin, saxophones (often two at once!); Rashawn Ross, trumpet; and Buddy Strong, keyboards. The last three joined since original saxman LeRoi Moore died in 2008. 8 p.m. $115-$45.50. 800-745-3000 www.livenation.com/events/734366-jul-13-2018-dave-matthews-band
GABACHO MAROC AT MUSIC HAVEN
The other big onstage news is the North American debut by international jazz sensations Gabacho Maroc on Sunday at Music Haven (Central Park, Schenectady). Drummer Vincent Thomas formed the band in Paris, reaching across a musical melting pot for musicians from French-speaking North Africa for his influence-rich, boldly spiced bouillabaisse of swinging, entrancing flavors.
They (aptly) title their new album “Tawassol” – “connection.” Our own world-jazz combo Heard from Saratoga Springs opens with music of similar ambition and wingspan. Bassist Bobby Kendall, reedman Jonathan Greene and percussionists Zorkie Nelson and Brian Melick play and improvise on keyboardist/composer Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius’ ingenious tunes. 7 p.m. Free. Rain site: Proctors. www.musichavenstage.org
MARTIN SEXTON AT CAFFE LENA
John Mayer famously calls Syracuse-born troubadour Martin Sexton “the best live performer I’ve ever seen.” Sexton plays Saturday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). A “new-folk” star since the '90s when his debut album hit No. 6 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, Sexton is the whole package: words and music, voice and guitar. 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. $55 advance, $60 door, $30 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Reunited Woodstock folk-rockers the Mammals play the Caffe on Friday, together again after a child-raising hiatus by partners/leaders Michael Merenda and Ruthie Ungar, who made five albums and played duo shows.
Starting to record their “Sunshiner” album, the Mike + Ruthie duo brought in bandmates old and new, playing drums, bass, pedal steel and organ for a full band sound they’re taking on the road. 8 p.m. 20 advance, $22 door, $11 students and children
ANOTHER COMEBACK: TOOTS & THE MAYTALS
Reggae superstar Frederick Toots Hibbert returns to the stage at Capital Concert Series in the Empire State Plaza on Wednesday, recovered from injuries suffered when a thrown bottle hit him in the head onstage. Toots & the Maytals basically named their style “Do the Reggay,” first use of that word, in 1968. They supplied a dance-it-up song for our wedding, “Sweet and Dandy.” (It mentions a wedding cake, but I digress.)
Toots’ voice has the strength, depth and joy of Otis Redding. Only Toots & the Maytals could have recorded the ferocious fun album “Reggae Got Soul” (also title of a BBC documentary). Rolling Stone lists Toots among its 100 Greatest Singers, and he holds the Jamaican hits record with 31 No. 1s. Popular since the '60s, Toots & the Maytals elevated and hypnotized at SUNY Albany’s MayFest freebie show in May 1982 and seem ready to do it again. Victory opens. 5:30 p.m. Free. www.ogs.ny.gov/ESP/Summer
CHARLIE DANIELS IN LAKE GEORGE
Studio-giant-turned-Southern-rocker Charlie Daniels returns on Sunday – he’s played EVERYWHERE here, including SPAC and the Palace in recent years – headlining at the Charles R. Wood festival site (17 West Brook Road, Lake George). A session ace before forming his own band, the wide-hatted guitarist, fiddler and singer has recorded country-rock, gospel and bluegrass albums while seldom leaving the road for long. True Grit Outlaws open. Gates open at 5 p.m. $85 VIP, $35 general admission. www.eventbrite.com
JOHN BUTLER AT THE EGG
Australian guitarist John Butler plays with the grab-'em-now intensity of his busking days, now leading a spirited trio from Windham Hill dreams to free-jazz fantasies and rootsy rock. Butler’s song “Ocean” has topped 25 million online views, showcasing the most intense 12-string style since Leo Kottke. The John Butler Trio (Byron Luiters, bass; Grant Gerathy, drums) plays The Egg tonight: Can you listen fast enough to keep up? 8 p.m. $48.50, $38.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
From the photo pit at SPAC on July 3, I watched Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks in the wings, changing their set list: a risky move with a 12-piece band. Armed with truckloads of confidence fueled by skill and versatility, they started with Derek & the Dominos’ (1970) “Tell the Truth,” an impromptu opening salvo of stunning power. They encored with “Statesboro Blues,” channeling Trucks’ inner Allman Brother by lighting up this 1928 Blind Willie McTell hit with overwhelming guitar fire. They made a majestic, massive sound, horns and harmony vocals supporting a core band of two drum-sets, bass, Tedeschi’s and Trucks’ guitars and keyboards and flute from Kofi Burbridge, back after missing last summer’s tour following heart surgery.
What band could pump the Box Tops’ “The Letter” to R&B heaven then intro a full-funk/soul blast on “Midnight in Harlem” with intro tastes of Miles’ trancey “In A Silent Way” and the Allmans’ ethereal “Little Martha”? Well, this band, maybe only this band, with the deepest rocking roots and widest wings of any rockers on the road.
They played songs of Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, the Four Tops as well as their own. “Harlem” was tops of vintage cuts, the new “Shame” just as good.
Baby-faced (21), barefoot, curls spilling under his hat, Marcus King revved high-energy blues shuffles with hyperactive guitar, his horn-spiced band welding him onto the groove. The Alabama singer-songwriter gang Drive-By Truckers followed, telling stories you might hear on a porch, but with Lynyrd Skynyrd loud on the radio. Mike Cooley’s stories took their time; Patterson Hood’s were more direct, but their soaring guitar surge united everything and polished it like a diamond.
Both King and Patterson Hood guested with TTB – Hood in “Let Me Roll It,” then King on “Key to the Highway” – TTB’s Mike Mattison’s voice as strong as the guitars – while Eric Krasno (Soulive, and Lettuce) guested in a very Allmans power-glide through “Statesboro Blues.” I doubt the Allmans ever played it better, or that anybody could challenge the Tedeschi Trucks Band as the most powerful big rock band on the road these days. Their Wheels of Soul tour with Drive-By Truckers and the Marcus King Band is a force of nature in mighty motion.