Amid thanksgiving for family, friends, firm health and fulfilling work, I’m grateful I can see NRBQ Friday at the Hangar (675 River St., Troy).
“NRBQ is more than a band; it’s a world view, and never before have we needed that view so much,” says my brother Jim Hoke, quoting fellow musician Mark Comstock. (Jim plays with the ’Q some and wrote “I’d Like to Know” on their “Brass Tacks” album.) Formed when the Beatles still played together, NRBQ continues to delight in surprising shows, predictable only in the way that, as longtime fan Johnny D says, “NRBQ makes you feel young.” Hit the Hangar Friday and you’ll find your 15-year-old self climbed in the car, too; when that younger you takes over and you smile and move in ways you haven’t for decades, or since your last ’Q show.
Their five-CD retro “High Noon” rocked onto 2016 best-of-the-year lists at the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Goldmine and others, while the Nashville Scene hailed the new “Happy Talk” EP for how it “ … ties the pursuit of eternal youth to the idea of timeless rock ’n’ roll.” But NRBQ onstage draws fans across whole states, or the country, to see them. Founder-pianist Terry Adams still ringmasters this musical circus, with Scott Ligon, guitar; Casey McDonough, bass; and John Perrin, drums. 8 p.m. $25. 518-272-9740 www.alehousetroy.com
Sean Rowe sings Saturday at the Hangar, a homecoming. “It’s a solo show, there’s no opener,” said Rowe by email. “And for sure I’ll be playing a bunch of new stuff.” He means fresh tunes from “New Lore,” his fifth studio album since 2004, recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis. Matt Ross-Spang produced; his credits include albums by Jason Isbell, Margo Price and other soulful southern singers. Troy-born Rowe may not be southern, but his voice seems to come from everywhere when it envelops you. 8 p.m. $20
Leading a trio with fire and finesse, bravely opening and closing with new songs, Richard Thompson delivered the best show (of many) I’ve seen him play Saturday at The Egg. After years of (mostly superb) solo shows, like art-song recitals with acoustic guitar genius, Thompson assembled bassist Taras Prodaniuk, drummer Michael Jerome and guitarist/tech Bobby Eichhorn into a mighty machine, then plugged in. Playing most of his new “13 Rivers” album and what Thompson blithely and accurately called “timeless classics,” they folk-rocked a highlight film of dangerously candid songwriting slammed or soothed home with even more dangerous playing.
If “Guitar Heroes” honored greats Django Reinhart, Les Paul, Chuck Berry and Hank Marvin in concentrated fashion, Thompson evoked their sounds and spirits elsewhere, especially Django in the lost-good-times melancholy of “They Tore the Hippodrome Down.” His hybrid playing — flat- or thumb-picking down on the bass strings, finger-picking the melody upward — sounded only like himself, in delicate folkie filigree or hard, crashing rockers.
No one wasted a note, though Thompson seemed to play all of them. The band was aces all around, strutting through intricate stop-and-go runs, roaring through such stormy upbeat bashers as the opening, new “Bones of Gilead,” departing for the solo acoustic/always thrilling solo “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”
In good voice and great mood, Thompson was in even better guitar fettle. Electric solos tore through melodic wonderlands into the deep strange, but as even the oddest riff vanished, he replaced it with the next shiny car in a train of relentless inspiration. No gaps divided brainy imagination and flying fingers; none separated the music from the crowd.
Sisters of Slide — Rory Block and Cindy Cashdollar, both mostly playing slide guitar, Block singing everything — opened with vintage blues in virtuoso assurance. When Thompson guested beautifully in a fervent “The Water is Wide,” Cashdollar had trouble focusing on the next tune, their last, “That’s No Way for Me to Get Along.” Shaking her head, she said, “I was in a trance!” So were the rest of us, throughout a superb night of music-making.
Three New Orleanians — superb sousaphonist Kirk Joseph, in-the-pocket drummer Terence Higgins and super-solid guitarist Will Bernard — teamed with restless New England Conservatory- and Lee Shaw-trained fusion keyboardist John Medeski in a dance-y, pulsating pilgrimage last Wednesday as Mad Skillet at the Cohoes Music Hall. Playing their way back to the propulsive 1970s jazz/rock of Weather Report, Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra — bands Miles birthed with “Bitches Brew” — required ingenious writing (songs on “Mad Skillet,” the band’s self-named album) and heads-up listening.
They brought all that and lots of funky fun; free-form and exciting. Medeski played the free-est, and the others played plenty of form; dense music of both shape and speed.
Bold and bracing but down to earth, it had taste and smells, like something spicy and a little strange, cooked up in the French Quarter or along the bayou. It never lost that New Orleans feel, but sure messed with it. “Invincible Bubble” cruised the streets like a parade before Joseph’s thunderous sousaphone rattled it back to the garage. Some songs strutted like reggae. Bernard’s guitar guided “Piri Piri” around the block, and Medeski’s ghost-story organ runs sketched out Sun Ra’s “Golden Lady” as encore.
For veteran/vintage fans like me, it felt too energetic and clever for cozy nostalgia, while younger fans, who outnumbered us, celebrated a jam-band jump-around. Nobody enjoyed that funk more than the four guys frying it up hot in Mad Skillet.
Our own folk-rocking jazz-and-more combo Annie and the Hedonists plays Friday and Saturday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). Like NRBQ, they only need four folks to roam wild in musical styles: singer Annie Rosen, guitarist-husband Jonny Rosen, bassist Don Young and Peter “he-plays-everything” Davis playing, well, everything. 8 p.m. $20 advance, $22 door, $11 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Also Friday and Saturday, the Disco Biscuits move their trance-electronica jams indoors at the Palace (19 Clinton Ave. at N. Pearl St., Albany) after hosting their Camp Bisco festival outdoors in Mariaville and other spots for years. The Philadelphia crew — Jon Gutwillig, guitar; Marc Brownstein, bass; Aron Magner, keyboards; Allen Aucoin, drums — have made 14 albums and five concert films. Compatible locals Formula 5 open. 7 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday. $39.50 advance, $42.50 day of show, both shows $75. 800-745-3000 www.palacealbany.org