Concert Review: Macy Gray / Buggy Jive @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 09/29/2023
Macy Gray Stumbles in Reset Tour, Buggy Jive Thrives
TROY–Grammy Award winning singer Macy Gray opened her “Reset Tour” at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Friday night. Gray and her band, The California Jet Set, had a few moments of brilliance, and many in the crowd were passionately dancing and calling to Gray throughout the night. Musically, though, local songwriter Buggy Jive stole the night with his originals that captivated us with his thoughtful lyrics and complex, layered sounds.
Buggy Jive is a rock singer-songwriter from Schenectady County, and he doesn’t play out much. When we heard he was opening for Macy Gray, Jim and I jumped at the chance to see him live on stage. Opening with his song “Law of Averages,” Buggy captured the audience’s attention with his bluesy, profound presence on stage. With a mix of spoken word, quotes from James Baldwin, and layering his own vocals, Buggy was able to share powerful messages with decadent harmonies that he produced and mixed right before our eyes.
The local musician confessed that he had purchased two tickets to see Macy Gray and pointed to the seats in the second row that were his. “I would’ve been here anyway,” he mused. “This is just a little more pressure.”
Before leaving the stage, Buggy shared his upcoming performance again at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall for Kaleidescape, a concert featuring many local musicians on October 14th. If Buggy Jive isn’t enough to get you out of the house to the historic hall, he will be joined by local artists Zan and the Winter Folk, The E-Block, Ohze, along with Girl Blue, Angelina Valente and Jimi W.
Macy Gray’s band took the stage shortly after Buggy’s departure, all dressed in industrial gray paint suits. Clearly led by her bassist, Alex Kyhn, the band featured two percussion sets, bass and keys. Kyhn would prove himself a musician throughout the night, keeping Gray exactly where she needed to be.
When Gray first entered the stage, her microphone wasn’t on and she struggled through the opening song as a result. She apologized after the song ended, adding, “That was supposed to go way differently.” Later in the night, she reviewed that incident again with the audience, noting that first nights on a tour are often marked with minor troubles.
Gray’s night was marked, however, by bigger problems in her first set. With chaotic visuals, an imbalance in the sound, and some moments of confusion, Gray seemed to be lost on the stage a few times. She often spun around, turning her back to the audience, wiping her face from sweat. She walked in circles and was shaking as she held tight to the mic stand, seemingly for balance.
Gray’s voice is still there, and she still has sass. She was able to engage the audience in call and return, and many in the audience were clapping along, if not passionately dancing in their seats. During an odd break, the one percussionist played along with a recording of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” The crowd seemed frenzied, and Gray wasn’t even on stage. Returning from a costume change, she presented more focused on jazz. With “Sorry” and soon after “The Heart,” I heard the familiar voice that had so many critics comparing her to Billie Holiday.
But the energy quickly shifted again as the band entered a dance club set reminiscent of disco more than blues. And while Gray stumbled across the stage and kept up with the lyrics, the crowd danced and played along with great joy.
I didn’t, however, feel the same vibe. There was almost a sadness to her presentation, a loss of self in this “Reset” that ironically is urging people to find their voices again. I stood outside the doors for “I Try,” and ironically could hear her voice better outside than inside. It is possible that the band was simply too loud for the setting and needed a sound technician to re-evaluate the balance with her vocals and the drum kit.
Macy Gray is a performer. She invited the crowd to sing along, and they happily obliged. Gray gave her fans the opportunity to sing, dance, and clap like they were in a club. Still a great entertainer, Gray engaged the audience on an intimate night that pleased the majority.
But for as much of the crowd pleasing, there was a noticeable stumble in Gray’s reset. Here’s hoping it was simply opening night nerves that had Gray trembling on stage, and wishing her success at her next venue. We plan to return to the historic hall to see Buggy Jive later this month. For all his nerves, his cool presentation abducted the stage and saved the night for us. Nippertown, don’t miss the chance to catch this local great who plays out so seldom when he returns to Troy on October 14th. Tickets are on sale now, so grab them while you can.