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Critic: Kirsten Ferguson

Pixies

photo:Chris Shield

1. Pixies

The Egg, Aug. 4

As 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

Valentine’s, May 13

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.

3. Jeff Tweedy

The 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 good spirits.

4. M.I.A.

Pearl 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 enthusiasm.

5. Ted Leo, Radio 4, the Sixfifteens

Valentine’s, June 24

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

WAMC 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 acerbic numbers.

7. Perceptionists

Valentine’s, April 14

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 consciousness clear.

8. Dirtbombs

Falstaff’s, 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

Valentine’s, Nov. 12

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 triple-bill.

Critic: Shawn Stone

 

1. Gwen Stefani

Turning 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

Saratoga 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 rained.

3. John & Bucky Pizzarelli

WAMC, Nov. 13

An afternoon of brilliant jazz guitar, equal parts guitar clinic and father-son quality time.

4. Amazing Plaid

Fuze 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

Turning 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.


Brian Wilson

photo:Maertin Benjamin

Critic: John Brodeur

 

1. Brian Wilson

Saratoga 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

Northern 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 . . . and on.

3. Glenn Tilbrook and the Fluffers

Revolution 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

Valentine’s, Sept. 13

The White Stripes in reverse. With dragons. Crushing.

5. Ween

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.

photocap:Jeff Tweedy

photocredit:Maertin Benjamin

6. 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 set.

7. Akron/Family

Fuze Box, July 11

One more time: face-melting.

8. Mark Olson and Gary Louris

The 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

Valentine’s, Sept. 23

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.

10. Queensrÿche

Northern 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.

Critic: David Greenberger

 

1. 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, plays along.

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.

Critic: Paul Rapp

 

1. 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 charming Golem.

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.

Critic: Bill Ketzer

1. Clutch, Stinking Lizaveta

Saratoga Winners, September 10

Crushing and spellbinding. Where those pipes come from is anyone’s guess.

2. Supersuckers, Reverend Horton Heat

Revolution Hall, Dec. 6

Another quality arse-kicking by the evil powers of rock & roll.

3. Judas Priest, Anthrax

Mid-Hudson Civic Center, Dec. 6

One word: Halford. And here’s four more for you: “Caught in a Mosh.”

4. Throw Rag, the Erotics, Murderer’s Row, Blasé Debris

Valentine’s, March 29

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

Saratoga 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

More beards at this show than on the Isle of Man.

 


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