Critic: Kirsten Ferguson
Egg, Aug. 4
a warm-up to their first “official” acoustic show, which took
place at the Newport Folk Festival a few days later, the Pixies
performed their first “unofficial” acoustic show. Some were
disappointed by the unadvertised, unplugged nature of the
set, but the Pixies didn’t need electrification to sound as
wonderfully malevolent as ever. And Kim Deal smoked butts
on stage: rock & roll.
2. Camper Van Beethoven
This was a great return to form for David Lowery and co.,
who reunited last year to tour for the first time in 15 years.
During the 30-song set, they trotted out most of their well-known
tunes from the ’80s, reinterpreted a few covers and played
some new songs that held up well next to the indie classics.
Egg, Nov. 14
Touring with only Wilco bandmate and drummer Glenn Kotche
behind him, a scruffy looking Tweedy revisited songs from
Wilco’s earlier albums and played a few of the choice Woody
Guthrie numbers from the Mermaid Avenue albums. The
heckler down front annoyed us all, but Tweedy remained in
Street Nightclub, June 10
The Sri Lankan-British singer and her mash of hiphop, Jamaican
dancehall and Brazilian funk was all the rage this year. At
Pearl Street, she proved herself to be an engaging and endearing
performer as well, full of positive energy and arm-waving
5. Ted Leo, Radio 4, the Sixfifteens
Leo’s gracious demeanor and impassioned, politically tinged
songs made this one of the best shows of the year, while Radio
4’s underground dance-rock hit “Dance to the Underground”
was worth hearing live, and local combo the Sixfifteens opened
up with a set of sprawling, enjoyable rockers.
6. Graham Parker, Mike Gent
Performing Arts Studio, April 8
With an opening set from Figgs and Gentlemen frontman Mike
Gent, who also joined Parker onstage for the latter portion
of his headlining set, this show gave the boisterous audience
what they were looking for in hits like “Local Girls” and
“Get Started, Start a Fire,” as well as Parker’s newer, more
Featuring underground hiphop artists Mr. Lif and Akrobatik,
the Perceptionists put on one of the most rousing and positive
hiphop shows I’ve ever seen, managing to fuel the feel-good
party vibe of the crowd while also making their political
Skidmore College, April 30
The sound may have been a bit rough, but it’s not every day
that Detroit’s finest rock & roll band, the Dirtbombs,
play in the area. For free. In front of 40 people or less.
9. The Blasters
File under something you don’t get to see every day: a set
by the Blasters, who last performed in Albany in the early
’80s. They sounded great too, like the true veterans of American
music that they are.
10. Supersuckers, Reverend Horton Heat, Split Lip Rayfield
Revolution Hall, Dec. 12
Between this show and the annual Christmastime Figgs set at
Valentine’s two days earlier, the second week of December
was a good time for rock in the Capital Region. The Supersuckers
may have shown up the Reverend just a little bit, but overall
it was well worth venturing out on a Monday night for this
Stone, Dec. 14
Picture a stage full of 10- to 14-year-olds surrounding Stefani
(in her drum-major uniform), all screaming “this shit is bananas”
during the “Hollaback Girl” encore, and you’ll get an idea
why this was the best show of the year.
2. Brian Wilson
Performing Arts Center, Aug. 14
Wilson and his band, whether performing Smile or his
catalog of Beach Boys hits, were never less than dazzling.
It was fun to watch Wilson having so much fun; too bad it
3. John & Bucky Pizzarelli
An afternoon of brilliant jazz guitar, equal parts guitar
clinic and father-son quality time.
4. Amazing Plaid
Box, Jan. 10
Tom Wilk and company created a thunderous neo-prog-meets-metal
experience. It was coherent and compelling, and pointed the
band in a new direction. Then they went on hiatus. Oh well.
5. Loretta Lynn
Stone, Aug. 11
Lynn only performed a couple of songs from her “comeback”
album, Van Lear Rose, but killed with her three (or
four?) decades worth of hits. And “The Pill” is still a shocker,
after all these years.
Performing Arts Center, Aug. 14
Brian Wilson was, well, Brian Wilson, but the real stars were
the songs—and the brilliant 20-something-piece ensemble that
faithfully and enthusiastically re- created every tambourine
trill, glockenspiel flourish, and slide whistle from the original,
classic recordings. The vocals were, uh, pretty good, too.
2. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
Lights, June 3
I still don’t care much for the Grateful Dead, but this was
a damn fine show, even if he fucked around with his best tunes.
Like any good night out, it got better as it went on . . .
3. Glenn Tilbrook and the Fluffers
Hall, April 15
The Squeeze man was razor sharp, and his band were fantastic.
I think they were only pretending to be loaded.
4. Mary Timony with Devin Ocampo
The White Stripes in reverse. With dragons. Crushing.
Northern Lights, Oct. 25
They played about 400 songs, including “Fat Lenny.” Every
Ween show is a winner; this is the best they’ve ever been.
Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche
The Egg, Nov. 14
A relaxed and very funny Tweedy wore Bob Dylan’s beard for
his solo-acoustic set, and Kotche opened with what was essentially
a percussion clinic. The real joy was watching the Wilco centerline
re-deconstruct their back catalog during a 45-minute collaborative
Box, July 11
One more time: face-melting.
8. Mark Olson and Gary Louris
Egg, Feb. 26
When their voices joined together in harmony, the last 10
years disappeared. Of all the year’s musical reunions, theirs
was the most natural and welcome.
9. The Rudds
Albany expat John Powhida and his big, magnificent band made
one of the best power-pop records to come out of Boston in
years (Get the Femuline Hang On), then celebrated its
release with us on this hot autumn night. If Powhida were
still living here, the Rudds would be the best local band—ever.
Lights, Feb. 2
What seemed like 10,000 people packed in to catch a small-scale
(in square footage only) performance of the classic Operation:
Mindcrime album. (And “Silent Lucidity.”) Could this have
possibly been good? Yes. Very, very good. Makes the hair on
the back of my mullet stand up just thinking about it.
Lyle Lovett Acoustic Trio
The Egg, May 23
Whether with his Large Band or scaled down to this minimum,
Lovett’s always elegant and emotive.
2. Geoff Muldaur with John Sebastian
Caffe Lena, Sept. 24
One man strums and sings while the other, previously unannounced,
3. Richard Thompson and Danny Thompson
The Egg, Oct. 21
Duets offer something that no other configuration does, and
the unrelated Thompsons play like one interconnected instrument.
4. Brian Wilson
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Aug. 14
While the subtle shadings of Smile are better heard
in an acoustically resonant theater, it was still magic to
have the songs cascading through the park.
5. Charles Lloyd Quartet
Williams College, April 16
Alternately ethereal and earthly.
6. The Fab Faux
The Egg, July 10
A Beatles cover band who celebrate the repertoire without
falling prey to the empty calories of costumed tribute extravaganzas.
7. Camper Van Beethoven
Valentine’s, May 13
The right combination of delightful inscrutability, social
concerns and scruffy but flat-out hypnotic rocking.
8. Jeff Tweedy
The Egg, Nov. 14
In solo mode, Wilco songs show their durability.
9. Glenn Tilbrook and the Fluffers
Revolution Hall, April 15
Songs, voice, band . . . only thing missing was a crowd.
10. Robert Fripp
Revolution Hall, Oct. 4
A night of Fripp’s “Soundscapes” improvisations, it was most
notable for his lengthy question-and-answer periods.
Derek Trucks Band
The Egg, Nov. 13
To get a sense of how good this one was, just look at the
rest of my list. Trucks was better than the rest of these
folks. A lot better, by the way.
2. The Rolling Stones
Pepsi Arena, Sept. 17
They certainly don’t have to go out and do this, you
know. They do it because they want to, and because they can.
And for that, we should all be grateful. A stripped-down delight
of a show.
3. Seth Rogovoy’s Rockin’ the Shtetl, Golem
Club Helsinki, Dec. 18
I think more shows should include lectures! Rogovoy’s spirited
history-of-klezmer-in-a-nutshell presentation rolled perfectly
into a rollicking, fun, and often silly set by the spectacularly
4. Steve Winwood
The Egg, Oct. 12
That voice, that voice, that freakin’ voice.
5. Van’s Warped Tour
Northampton Fairgrounds, Aug. 15
I balanced out the impossibly high geezer quotient of my concert
subjects in one afternoon! 100 bands, nine stages, 30,000
kids, 4,000 nervous parents, lots of mud, energy drinks, Murphy’s
Law’s beer (thanks guys!), Chinese punks, techno girls, and
a great, great vibe.
6. World Saxophone Quartet
Berkshire Music Hall, March 26
The grand men of the reeds honor Jimi Hendrix, or rather,
use his tunes as a platform for doing what they do: explosive
high-end explorations of sound, pushed relentlessly by young
monstro-drummer Lee Pearson.
7. Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson
Wahconah Park, June 23
A great afternoon at the ancient ballpark with two of the
most iconic figures in the history of American music, both
alarmingly focused and atop their games.
8. Pete Best
The Van Dyck, July 28
Let’s see, the Stones, Dylan. . . . Who’s left? Oh yeah, a
Beatle! I saw a Beatle!
9. Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, July 17
EW&F, back from the dead and killin’ with Philip Bailey
as an utter force of nature. Chicago, just watching.
10. Mickey Dread
Club Helsinki, April 7
Dreadly dub delivered devilishly. MD is a master of old-school
reggae, a cheerful MC, and has a killer band that thumps happily
and effortlessly behind him.
Clutch, Stinking Lizaveta
Winners, September 10
Crushing and spellbinding. Where those pipes come from is
2. Supersuckers, Reverend Horton Heat
Hall, Dec. 6
Another quality arse-kicking by the evil powers of rock &
3. Judas Priest, Anthrax
Civic Center, Dec. 6
One word: Halford. And here’s four more for you: “Caught in
4. Throw Rag, the Erotics, Murderer’s Row, Blasé Debris
Throw Rag are unsung titans of punk, totally wiggly-weird,
jacked-up sailors on prescription meds. Three great locals
made it all the more special.
5. Crosby, Stills and Nash
Performing Arts Center, July 29
Impeccable harmonies remain after all these beers, and still
waiving the freedom banner high.
6. Alabama Thunderpussy, Great Day for Up, Small Axe
Hudson Duster, Feb. 1
beards at this show than on the Isle of Man.