Summer — our season of too much, of multiple music choices. Last night alone, free shows included Brooklyn’s boisterous Turbans at Music Haven in Proctors; folk-rocker/filmmaker (Bob’s kid) Jakob Dylan’s Americana-rocking Wallflowers at the Empire State Plaza; star-since-the-’70s singer Maria Muldaur in Lake George; and Irish rockers the Screaming Orphans at Freedom Park.
We look ahead to more here, then back, at the end.
Tonight, folk singer/actor/playwright Jonatha Brooke plays Caffe Lena, where she played years ago in her duo The Story. 7 p.m. $42 advance, $45 door, $22.50 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Also tonight, Boston prog-funk band Lettuce plays Alive at Five (Jennings Landing, Corning Preserve, Albany); Jaw Gems open. 5 p.m. Free. Rain site: Corning Preserve boat launch under I-787. www.albanyevents.org
And Mississippi troubadour/memoirist Steve Forbert leads his band the New Renditions at Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson), just a few months after playing WAMC’s The Linda solo. 8 p.m. $20 advance, $25 door. 518-828-4800 www.helsinkihudson.com
Soul giant Bettye LaVette takes over Club Helsinki on Friday, a singer of enormous voice and depth. Milton opens. 9 p.m. $35, $45
Also Friday, John Mayer launches a new tour with his own band (Mayer, David Ryan Harris and Isiah Sharkey, guitars; Pino Palladino, bass; Aaron Sterling, drums; Jamie Muhoberac, keyboards; Aaron Draper, drums; and Carlos Ricketts and Tiffany Palmer, vocals) at the Times Union Center (51 S. Pearl St., Albany), fresh off the Dead & Co. tour that played SPAC last month. $146-$55. 800-745-3000 www.tickemaster.com
Still on Friday, drummer Sammy Miller leads his funky fun band the Congregation into Caffe Lena. 8 p.m. $22, $25, $12.50
Sunday, Pacific Northwest rockers Heart lead an all-woman bill at SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center, routes 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs), with L.A. rocker Sheryl Crow and newcomer Lucie Silvas. 7 p.m. $129.50-$29.50
Rob Thomas, the “Smooth” guy from Matchbox Twenty, returns to SPAC Wednesday; Abby Anderson opens. 7:30 p.m. $103-$43
Backing up to Sunday, the powerful new folk trio of Happy Traum, Cindy Cashdollar and Mary Flower play Caffe Lena. 7 p.m. $28, $32, $16
Also Sunday, Music Haven (Central Park, Schenectady) presents the Garifuna Collective from Belize, an all-star revue with Bodoma Garifuna Culture Band opening.
Both bands play rhythmic dance music mixing African and Caribbean sounds. 7 p.m. Free. www.musichavenstage.org. Rain site: Proctors
Hard-rocking Godsmack plays the Cool Insuring Arena (1 Civic Center Plaza, Glens Falls) on Sunday. New Years Day opens. 8 p.m. $67.50-$27.50. 855-432-2849 www.coolinsuringarena.com
And on Tuesday, Grateful Dead-associated jammers team up at the Hollow (79 N. Pearl St., Albany): John Kadlecik, guitar; Jay Lane, drums; Robin Sylvester, bass; and Benjie Porecki, keyboards. 9 p.m. $20. 518-426-8550 www.thehollowalbany.com
And there’s more: Check your favorite venue or artists online.
Upbeat, soaring on soul power, the Tedeschi Trucks Band hit a hot one Sunday at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Energy was way up, onstage and in the crowd. In set-list order, it went like this.
“Let Me Get By” rocked a bold, brassy welcome. New keyboardist Gabe Dixon got the first solo, a big organ blitz.
“High and Mighty” hit just as hard; trumpeter Ephraim Owens honked it over the moon.
In “Signs, High Times,” singers Mike Mattison, Mark Rivers and Alecia Chakour pumped things up behind Susan Tedeschi’s guitar solo.
Some sat in the soulful “Still Your Mind,” Derek Trucks’ first stratospheric solo of the night.
In Willie Nelson’s blues-waltz “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces,” Dixon played hot melodica, then pumped a gospel intro on organ in “Sweet Inspiration,” everybody jumping back up to bop as the band stretched out.
Mike Mattison soul-shouted the volcanic “Life Is Crazy” with sky-splitting falsetto.
The stutter-beat shuffle “Keep on Growing” featured phat sax from Kebbi Williams.
Dixon’s piano and Tedeschi’s vocal powered the bluesy “Hard Things to Refuse” and the wave-formed “Shame” that followed, the horns stabbing abrupt riffs into the groove.
Then she quieted band and fans, elegantly understating Dylan’s ”Don’t Think Twice.”
Mattison again stepped up in Ray Charles’ defiant R&B romp “Sticks and Stones,” Trucks and Owens pushing the beat.
“I Want More” blurred into Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” and back. A sweet moment: Trucks in full flight handed off the spotlight to new bassist Brandon Boone. Seeing Boone hesitate, a fan yelled, “You can do it!” so Boone did — a thrilling thump-fest that made both Boone and Trucks smile as the band surged into the cyclic beat blast of “Soul Sacrifice.”
They brought members of both openers out for the encore: Shovels & Rope and Blackberry Smoke. More isn’t always better, but that mob was on Sunday in “Key to the Highway” and Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain,” with its soul-stirring urge that we start “learning to live together.” Trombonist Elizabeth Lea finally got some spotlight at the end, swapping riffs with Trucks, who grinned at her fireworks.
Ingenious Shovels & Rope made a big sound for just two people singing and playing everything in sight; but their southern-gothic underdog blues-rock would have soared higher in a smaller venue, indoors. Their best tunes, “C’Mon Utah” and “Mississippi Nuthin’ ” would work anywhere, though; impressive, engaging.
Blackberry Smoke made mighty music from the same small-town compassion, two rhythm guitars, keyboards, bass, percussion and drums meshing behind Charlie Starr’s voice and lead guitar riffs. Maybe the hairiest band on the road, they’re also one of the best in cohesion, forceful riffing and clarity — a band to love.
All three bands spiced their originals with familiar tunes; Shovels & Rope looped “Rock of Ages” into their bitter road-band saga “Birmingham”; Blackberry Smoke tucked “Amazing Grace” into their own plaintive “Ain’t Much Left of Me” and reggae’d through Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” to close their terrific middle set.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band, as usual, made magic in everything they touched. Trucks’ aggressive playing lit up everybody around him. After more than a decade together, they can turn on a dime — or just a glance — instantly zipping in a new direction.
Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke described the musical menu poignantly, saying they make music “we love and care about, not just to get it on the radio, but so you carry it in your heart.”
Amen and amen.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]