Iconic singer/dancer/actor Janet Jackson brings her State of the World tour tonight to Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC, routes 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs).
Onstage since age 10 as kid sister in America’s mightiest musical family, she and producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis redefined R&B as a beat-heavy, highly sexual theater in extravagant productions. State of the World is only her eighth tour since 1990, when she played the former Pepsi Arena.
Writer David Ritz has said, “on Janet’s albums — and in her videos and live performances, which revealed a crisp, athletic dance technique — singing wasn’t the point,” subtly noting her narrow vocal range.
Standing 5 feet away in the Pepsi photo pit in Jackson’s Rhythm Nation show, the point was the work, the energy and power. Three songs in (Wiki reports this was “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” but I digress), Jackson swung her head so hard sweat sprinkled my lens and forehead. Wow, I thought: Anybody who moves that hard while singing on pitch is some special kind of artist who’s elbowed her way among the greats. Rhythm Nation sold more than 2 million tickets, highest-ever for a debut tour by any artist.
Janet Jackson has scored the most consecutive top-10 entries on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart by a female artist with 18. In 2008,
Billboard ranked her seventh on its Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists list, and in 2010 ranked her fifth among the “Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years.” Forget the Super Bowl XXXVIII wardrobe malfunction; Janet Jackson is a superfunctional superstar; her shows are elegantly produced, live-action blasts performed to nanosecond perfection. $129.95, $79.95, $49.95. 800-745-3000 www.livenation.com
Allman & Betts: ring a bell? It should, especially after Derek Trucks channeled his inner Allman Brother at SPAC July 3. Devon Allman and Duane Betts bring southern-rock royalty pedigrees to The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) Friday, rocking the music of their fathers and their own originals. 8 p.m. $35. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Friday, folk veterans the Brothers Four — group name, no sibs involved — play Caffe Lena. Some members date from the quartet’s star-making days in the 1960s folk scare. 7 p.m. $45 advance, $50 door, $25 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Sunday, the Bacon Brothers (actor/singer/guitarist Kevin and singer/guitarist Michael) play The Egg. The brothers have played here before, including Alive at Five last summer, and actually promoted eggs for the American Egg Board! — a tempting comedy setup deluxe. 8 p.m. $64.50, $34.50
Tuesday, actor/singer/guitarist Jeff Daniels plays Caffe Lena, guesting with son Ben Daniels’ Band: George Merkel, guitar; Tommy Reifel, bass; Wesley Fritzemeier, drums and mandolin; and Amanda Merle, percussion and vocals. 7 p.m. $38 advance, $40 door, $20 students and children
The Caffe is busy before those Daniels guys show up Tuesday.
Freddy and Francine (singer-songwriters Bianca Caruso and Lee Ferris, who met in a production of “Hair”) play tonight. 7 p.m. $14 advance, $16 door, $8 students and children
Super voice Mary Fahl (ex-October Project) sings Saturday at 8 p.m. $28 advance, $30 door, $15 students and children
On Sunday, blues/R&B/pop singer Joan Osborne tackles Bob Dylan songs on the same stage where Bob once sang. 8:30 p.m. $60 advance, $65 door, $32.50 students and children
Earlier Sunday, Garland Nelson leads “A Joyful Noise! Gospel Brunch.” 1 p.m. $25 advance, $35 door, $12.50 students and children; this includes brunch from nearby Hattie’s!
Monday, unprecedented ukulele wizard Jake Shimbukuro makes magic on four strings at the Caffe, coziest spot he’s played in years. 7 and 9 p.m. $70 advance, $75 door, $37.50 students and children
Recalling pal Al Quaglieri’s axiom that earth’s most miserable places often produce the most wonderful music, Lakou Mizik from Haiti plays Music Haven on Sunday; Bonga & the Vodou Drums of Haiti open. Like many Third-World ensembles, Lakou Mizik spans generations, with veteran members in their 60s leading energetic newcomers in their 20s. 7 p.m. Free. Rain site: Proctors. www.musichavenstage.org
Let’s catch up on Music Haven shows (presented a mile from my house). The Empire Jazz Orchestra “Encore” show July 10 was better than the EJO’s April “Finale” show at SCCC. Maestro Bill Meckley (retiring from EJO and SCCC) honed the setlist for Music Haven to the strongest tunes from SCCC, including guitarist Mike Novakowski’s fiery soloing in “Crazy Blues” and trumpeter Vito Speranza’s very-Satchmo riffing in “Portrait of Louis Armstrong.” A bittersweet farewell, though jazz fans would be happy if these cats played many comeback/farewells like Cher.
Mile Twelve and Honeysuckle paired at Music Haven July 19: young bluegrass-inspired bands in old-school acoustic country with young energy. Guitar-mandolin-banjo trio Honeysuckle’s mostly original music used familiar sounds. Holly McGarry sang Suzanne Vega-plain, in downhill melodies, with mandolinist/main soloist Chris Bloniarz and banjoist Ben Burns harmonizing a la CS&N.
At one mic, like the Earls of Leicester at Music Haven in 2016, a quintet armed for bluegrass, Mile Twelve brought fresh zip to familiar songs: “Ramblin’ Man” (Allman Brothers), “In Despair” and “In the Pines” (Bill Monroe), “Rocket Man” (Elton John), “Where We Started” (Zoe & Cloyd), “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone who Cares)” (Travis Tritt), “Roll Muddy River” (Osborne Brothers), “Ace of Hearts” (Alan Jackson). Whatever the song, their instruments lifted off every time and voices meshed in up-hollow harmony or soared alone.
Who knew such complex rhythms lurked between the Andes and the Pacific, or that Chileans could musically fly to India? As with Janet Jackson, motion is part of the message for Pasquala Ilabaca, who danced as much as she sang and played Sunday at Music Haven. Even playing a big red accordion, she moved nonstop, sometimes ballet-airy, sometimes punk-rocking, other times miming harp accompaniment or giving gesture to melodies. In fact, few beats rang out from her band Fauna (drums, bass, guitar, reeds) without bouncy body English. Before evoking India rhythmically and with a temple dance, they used tiny clay flutes in “Mati,” about their home forests, and claimed all of world music for their palette. Clarinet riffs conjured tango master Astor Piazolla jamming with a klezmer crew at times. Later, Ilabaca aimed powerful pipes at a tribute to “terrifying, wonderful singer” Yma Sumac over a seething beat, then let the crowd down easy, gentle and sweet with a love-song duet.
Openers Taina Asili y Banda Rebelde made good on their promise, “This is not just music, it’s a message,” asserting that her rebel “music is a powerful form of resistance.” Asili’s music itself — punched home by drums, bass, guitar, two percussionists, trumpets and second singer — carried affirmation in salsa and meringue rhythms that sometimes shifted to reggae and Afro-pop. They set the bar high for the headliners while sketching the ongoing travails of Asili’s native Puerto Rico.
Today is Mick Jagger’s birthday and King Sunny Ade’s. Way sadder news: New Orleans piano great Henry Butler died July 2. An inventive modernist who revved the two-fisted power of Professor Longhair, James Booker and Champion Jack Dupree deep into the future, Butler lost his 1925 piano to Katrina and moved to New York. There he recorded the exquisite “Viper’s Drag” (2014) with Steve Bernstein’s agile jazz band, showing off exuberant riffs and gruff voice to delicious effect. He gigged until just weeks before cancer took him at 69.