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I started a joke: Coby Dick of Papa Roach.

PHOTO: Joe Putrock

Getting Away With Murder

By David King

Papa Roach, It Dies Today

Northern Lights, March 4

‘Cu-u-ut my li-fe in to piecesthhh, thiiiisthhh isthhhh my lassthhh resort,” sings the man in the fake moustache as he stumbles around the stage, sloshing his scotch while giving us his slurred rendition of Papa Roach’s hit “Last Resort.” I am smiling wide as the douche bag behind me turns red; his friends laugh while trying to make him realize it is not worth defending P. Roach’s honor by fighting a fake Robert Goulet.

“You guys down with P. Roach?” asks Fake Goulet.

“Who the fuck is that? Someone should kick his ass!” declares the douche bag at the bar. He wasn’t listening when the guy on stage introduced himself as Robert Goulet, or perhaps he doesn’t know who Robert Goulet is, or understand that the man on stage is not actually Robert Goulet, but more likely, a member of It Dies Today (a band whose otherwise decent opening set was compromised by Papa Roach’s crew, who periodically removed pieces of the drummer’s kit and otherwise marred their performance in last-night-of-the-tour antics.)

But either way, this guy just won’t shut up about rushing the stage. And here I am, having a blast, but I’m starting to worry that maybe—just maybe—this guy will manage to ruin it for me and the rest of the packed house here tonight.

The lights dim and P. Roach appear. Coby, the lead singer, starts bouncing around the stage like he’s still on tour with Fred Durst. And it sounds like someone has turned on the soundtrack to the latest Vin Diesel movie.

Then the singing starts. “Listen up, turn it up and rock it out, party on/I wanna hear you scream and shout/This is real, as real as it gets/I came to get down to get some fucking respect/Taking it back to hardcore level.” I am holding myself, laughing. And then the chorus hits: “I’ll never give in, I just wanna be, wanna be loved.” And I start feeling just a bit guilty, like I’m the only one who gets the joke. And then they launch into “Getting Away With Murder,” and I realize perhaps the band have a good hold on how lucky they are to still have a career. Perhaps, though, the joke is on me. I notice everyone around me is smiling and having a good time. Then I get sad; the joke is getting progressively less funny. And I realize above all, I want the Goulet impersonator to come back.

Openers It Dies Today, from Buffalo, fought a valiant battle against Papa Roach’s road crew and their pranks. Despite the annoyance, they managed to deliver a surprisingly catchy dish of radio-friendly metal-core. The band spent their set displaying the duality of their metal base and their flirtation with modern-rock radio.

Shades of Blue

Taj Mahal Trio

Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, March 3

Taj Mahal took to the Troy Music Hall stage (in a house nearly filled to capacity) to affirm what he’s been doing for more than 40 years: glorying in the traditions of the blues. These are American traditions, but they’re a synthesis that reached us from other continents and still continue to develop.

Taj understood this back in the ’60s when he entered the scene as a singer- guitarist playing music woven from the rich, recorded tapestry of the past as well as his own peripatetic childhood. It’s a familiar journey: folk revivalists were doing the same, paying homage to an old sound. But Taj, ever the purists’ scourge, has never been wedded to the old way of doing things.

“Fishing Blues,” a signature piece, is the carefree finale to Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, a hugely influential six-record set of 1930-era 78s issued in 1952. The much-performed and -recorded Taj Mahal version—far more energetic than the original—still conveys the song’s undercurrent longing for the simpler days of childhood.

Likewise, the traditional “Little Brown Dog,” featured on a couple of Taj’s children’s albums, dates back well before recordings. It’s a dream story that’s ever so sweet as Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Autumn to May,” but in Taj’s hands the dream has a hushed urgency and the added exoticism of a fast, syncopated rhythm, driven by the skillful brushwork of drummer Kester Smith.

The art of the blues is to overcome, with lyric and texture and melodic variety, a harmonically restricted form. The blues fueled this concert, beginning with a throbbing instrumental and coursing for 90 minutes to Blind Willie Johnson’s “You’re Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond.”

Other blues artists were saluted: “Checkin’ Up on My Baby,” by Sonny Boy Williamson, cost Taj a guitar string (unfazed, he grabbed another instrument), while Little Walter’s “Blues with a Feeling” showed us Taj’s keyboard artistry.

Some of the original songs have become blues standards. “Going up to the Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue” is from Taj’s second album, released nearly 40 years ago, but the song has a timeless, classic sense of yearning. “When I Feel the Sea Beneath My Soul” is an instrumental with a catchy, routined pause, while the “Uh-Huh Blues” begged for audience participation in the chorus. And it featured some blistering work by Bill Rich on the five-string bass.

By the time Taj got to “Queen Bee,” another original, he had at least one audience member dancing in the aisle, which he clearly enjoyed.

Despite an extensive discography, Taj Mahal has been a record-label gypsy, eventually cut loose from the majors. As he explained early in the show, he’s not about to change his repertory to suit what the suits can sell. Concerts like this one are a way to musical freedom, an “underground railroad,” as he termed it. It was a triumphant journey for performers and audience alike.

—B.A. Nilsson


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