LIVE: Sean Rowe @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 4/12/14

Review by Greg Haymes

Sean Rowe has played on bigger stages to bigger audiences across the U.S. and the globe, but never in his hometown. So his recent concert at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall was a big step up – a chance to show his local fans, friends and family just how far he’s come since those not-so-long-ago days of banging it out in neighborhood clubs and cafes. And he made the most of the opportunity.

Quite at home on the stage of the venerable Music Hall, Rowe looked relaxed, comfortable and confident. And with his new upcoming album already completed – although sadly it won’t be released until September – he also came armed with some new songs. Good ones, too, especially “Madman” and the surprisingly upbeat “The Game.”

Naturally, his fans wanted to hear some of their old favorites, too, and he obliged them with the booming opening volley of “Signs,” “Joe’s Cult” (played on a “prepared guitar” with a dollar bill and a pen stuck into the guitar strings to create a raw, rattling sound) and the primal blues of “Wrong Side of the Bed.”

But disappointingly, he also perhaps too liberally peppered his set with cover tunes from the songbags of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and others. The best of the batch was his ferocious, epic guitar work-out on Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning 1952.”

Ironically, Rowe had never stepped foot in the Music Hall until he played Saturday’s show, but his debut there made perfect sense, as the concert was a benefit for the Rensselaer Land Trust, and Rowe – in addition to his considerable musical talents – is also a longtime wilderness survivalist and hunter-gather. “It’s really important to be part of the landscape,” he told the crowd, “and not just look at it like a fishbowl.” (Rowe also recently led a forage walk through the Robert Ingalls Preserve for the Land Trust.)

Saratoga Springs singer-songwriter MaryLeigh Roohan opened the show with an all-too-short set, accompanying herself on electric guitar. She was as nervous as she was thoroughly engaging in her between-tune patter, but she certainly didn’t sing nervous, powering through five intimate, wise-beyond-her-years songs, highlighted by the hypnotic “Baby You Should Know” from her exquisite solo debut album, “Skin and Bone.”

The Game
Joe’s Cult
Tomorrow Is a Long Time (Bob Dylan)
Wrong Side of the Bed
Spoonful (Willie Dixon)
I’ll Follow Your Trail
The River (Bruce Springsteen)
Vincent Black Lightning 1952 (Richard Thompson)
Long Black Veil
To Leave Something Behind

Sean Rowe’s next upcoming Nippertown performance will be at the closing day of Mountain Jam (Sunday, June 8) at Hunter Mountain, where he’ll be sharing the stage with the likes of the Allman Brothers Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood, Lucius, Anders Osborne, Treetop Flyers, the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger and others.

Meanwhile, MaryLeigh Roohan returns to the Nippertown spotlight to share the stage with Lord Huron for a FREE Alive at Five concert at Albany’s Jennings Landing on Thursday, July 10.

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