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The year in review 2006

 

Best of 2006

Critic: John Brodeur

1. The Flaming Lips, Ween, Sonic Youth

New York State Fairgrounds, Sept. 1

Roll up your Polyphonic Spree real tight and cram it. The Flaming Lips transcended the concert experience by providing an honest-to-God spiritual event, with “support” from two more of the most inventive acts of the last 20 years. Who would have guessed the best show of the year would pop up at the freaking state fair?

2. The Roots, Brazilian Girls

Hunter Mountain, Aug. 25-26

The two-day Camp Bisco music festival held many of the expected trappings: drugs, music to take drugs to (there’s no other logical explanation for the Disco Biscuits), and hordes of the great unwashed dancing through the downpour (who needs soap when there’s rain?). But the Roots’ maniacally tight R&B machine made up for the Friday-night blahs with songs from their excellent 2006 release Game Theory, while New York’s brizzilliant Brazilian Girls stole the whole damn show with the best nightclub set of the year—at 4 in the afternoon.

3. Ray LaMontagne

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Aug. 17

It’s not about the songs—which are good. It’s all about LaMontagne’s heaven-sent voice, and on this night, he held aloft 5,000 or so Guster fans with each and every soulful syllable.

4. Jimmy Webb

WAMC Performing Arts Studio, Jan. 21

Now this was about the songs, from “Wichita Lineman” to “MacArthur Park” to “Up, Up and Away.” And Webb, the architect of those and so many other timeless tunes, was one mighty charming name- dropper. (Hey, if you’ve got a Sinatra story, you tell it!)

Duran
Duran at the Palace Theater

5. Duran Duran

Palace Theater, Nov. 6

Guess what: “The Reflex” still kicks ass.

6. Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus, Peaches

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, June 18

The strangest big-stage concert of the summer was also the best.

7. World Party

Troy River Street Festival, June 17

I had almost forgotten how many wonderful songs Karl Wallinger had composed. This was a pleasant reminder.

8. Pearl Jam

Pepsi Arena, May 12

When they’re playing songs as good as the ones on this year’s self-titled disc, Pearl Jam are one of the very best concert acts going.

9. Glenn Tilbrook

WAMC Performing Arts Studio, April 2

With just an acoustic guitar, the former Squeeze singer is a one-man wrecking machine. He even rocks those classic guitar solos. Hot shit.

10. The Strokes

Washington Avenue Armory, Oct. 6

Say what you want about First Impressions of Earth, but live, those songs killed.

Best of 2006

Critic: Shawn Stone

1. Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, June 28

Perfect in the way only money can buy, Trent Reznor and company matched great musicianship with very pricey, state-of-the-art sound and vision. Bauhaus were dark and dazzling.

2. Duran Duran

Palace Theatre Nov. 6

One great pop-rock song after another from four of the original five Durans. For 75 minutes, the 1980s lived again.

3. Kris Kristofferson

The Egg, March 30

The man, his guitar and his amazing songbook delighted a sold-out crowd of faithful fans. He’s still the silver-tongued devil.

4. Linda Ronstadt

Proctor’s Theatre, June 5

Ronstadt has taken good care of her voice, and her voice took care of her in this engaging performance at Proctor’s.

5. Dresden Dolls, Golem

The Egg, April 9

The Dresden Dolls’ Kurt Weill-meets-Violent Femmes sound met Golem’s klezmer-punk for a vaguely Europe-tainted evening of angry, sexy-time sounds. And face painting.

6. The Aimee Mann Christmas Show

The Egg, Dec. 16

More fun than a fistful of Xanax, Mann and guests—including Grant-Lee Phillips—brought a little holiday fun to town, just when we needed it.

7. The Musical Box

Proctor’s Theatre, Oct. 29

Yes, they’re a tribute band who play, note-for-note, ’70s prog rock by a bunch of nerd-school English gits. Want to make something of it?

8. Josephine Foster

Valentine’s, May 27

Most people took this ill-fated show as a train wreck, but the skittish Foster still impressed with her haunted take on, among other things, German art song.

9. Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket

Pepsi Arena, May 12

I’m usually not that crazy about Pearl Jam, but Eddie and company were on fire. And My Morning Jacket weren’t, which was sort of the point.

10. Mariah Carey

Pepsi Arena, Sept. 1

An old-school diva returns with a crateload of costumes and more No. 1 hits than the Beatles.

Best of 2006

Critic: Bill Ketzer

1. Pat Travers

Revolution Hall, June 23

Travers is still the man, delivering a greatest-hits package on a sweltering eve by the river that left them whiskey-soaked and muttering filthy non sequiturs to police, volunteer fireman, wives, roommates, etc. upon exodus from the club. Older, sure, but still tighter than a prairie dog’s arse in a dust bowl.

2. Unholy Alliance Tour 2006 featuring Slayer, Lamb of God, Mastodon, Children of Bodom, Thine Eyes Bleed

Washington Avenue Armory, June 29

What better way to celebrate the end of a state legislative session than with a split lip and cigarette burns on your eyelids? The proverbial planets aligned this summer to offer up this near-faultless package for Hessians young and old.

3. The Sword, Stinking Lizaveta, Greatdayforup

Valentine’s, Dec. 8

Three excellent, heavy-handed visions for you. If one pressed the chest to the woofers at any point during the evening, the effect was similar to a hot dose of DMT in a sauna on an empty stomach . . . or . . . so . . . I’m . . . told. Great time, and good also to hear some new material from locals GDFU.

4. Stanton Moore Trio

Red Square, May 18

A ridiculously hot time. Moore brought along two New Orleans veterans, wrote up the charts stone cold in the dressing room and laid waste for three-plus hours. Let’s see Boys Night Out try that.

5. John Fogerty, Willie Nelson

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Aug. 6

Two legends. One stage. No depression. I got the gooseflesh when Fogerty pounced out to “Travelin’ Band,” and wept like a televangelist when Willie did “Always on My Mind.” It was like reading The Sun Also Rises for the first time.

Best of 2006

Critic: Paul Rapp

1. Haale

Club Helsinki, Feb. 3, Oct. 14; MASS MoCA, June 24

Three shows, three different configurations of musicians, three spectacular musical experiences of psychedelic Persian magic. Haale’s at least three steps to the left of almost everything else you’ve ever heard, but she’s so dead on it you probably won’t notice. I suspect 2007 will be Haale’s year.

2. Tallis Scholars

Tanglewood, Aug. 17

I’d been waiting 15 years to see this early-music a cappella group, and every second of the wait was worth it. Mesmerizing, majestic, ethereal, and utterly moving. The 10 voices filled every inch of the Ozawa Hall with joy and wonder.

3. Robbie Fulks

Club Helsinki, July 2

Hyper-smart and insidiously funny, Fulks and his killer band played country music the way it oughta be played, the way it used to be played before the country scene got Wal-Marted into mediocrity. And the guy flat-picks like a demon. The only problem was that it was damn hard to dance while laughing my ass off.

4. Tin Hat

Club Helsinki, March 4

Carla Kihlstedt and company performed an evening of intergalactic chamber music that was beyond bold, beyond creative, beyond tasteful. Horns, reeds, strings, a tiny pump organ. Crumpling paper as a percussion instrument. Watching these guys was like taking a three-week vacation to a different and delightfully better place.

5. DuWayne Burnside and the Mississippi Mafia

Club Helsinki, Sept. 16

Move over, Rover, and let DuWayne take over. You want the funk? You’ll have to ask DuWayne, ’cause he’s got it. All of it. Cold. Deep, too! Stanky, stanky, stanky-ass stanky . . .

6. Matisyahu

Washington Avenue Armory, Oct. 17

Everyone’s favorite Hasidic reggae singer showed why he’s da bomb, thoroughly debunking the racist bullshit thrown at him this year by the solipsistic twits at The New York Times. (I got yer authenticity right here, jack-offs.) His arena show was every bit as intimate, powerful, and inspiring as the staggering set he did two years ago on the tiny stage at Savannah’s. Matisyahu’s got his mazel tov mojo workin’ overtime.

7. Bob Dylan

Doubleday Field, Aug. 17

I’ve been trying to figure out whether I like Dylan for, oh, 44 years or so; this show locked it in. He’s really got me now. The lingering remains of Hurricane Ernesto kept a lot of people away, and what a show they missed. What a band! George Racile is some kind of drum god. Dylan was actually smiling through the mist.

Best of 2006

Critic: David Greenberger

1. The Terry Adams & Steve Ferguson Quartet

WAMC Performing Arts Center, July 14

An emotionally rich and musically rewarding night, as NRBQ’s Terry Adams returned to the area after a performing hiatus, this time with his old friend and Q cofounder, guitarist Steve Ferguson.

2. The Figgs, the Rudds

Valentine’s, Dec. 23

Their annual holiday stand was given a sadly potent twist when Mike Gent couldn’t attend due to the declining health of his mother. So the two Petes went on as a duo, and the crowd was completely theirs. They were also joined by Brett Rosenberg from the Rudds, whose opening set of power pop turned the unadorned hall into a sleek ’70s stereo system.

3. Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins

The Academy of Music, Northampton, Mass., Oct. 14

She of Rilo Kiley, here stepping out on her own for one of the most assured and confident performances of the year, along with one of the best releases. She’s the real deal.

4. The Ivey Divey Trio

The Egg, March 24

Though they were led by Don Byron, the night belonged equally to drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Jason Moran.

5. They Might Be Giants, OK Go

Washington Park Tulip Festival, May 13

The rain stayed away, it was a sunny day, and I got to take in two bands with my just-home-from-college daughter. What could be better?

Best of 2006

Critic: Mike Hotter

1. Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, June 21

Bruce and his select group of trad-music MVPs made us forget all about the E Street Band, at least for the duration of this inspiring Americana revival.

2. The Flaming Lips, Ween, Sonic Youth, the Magic Numbers

New York State Fairgrounds, Sept. 1

This dream billing of alt-rock heavyweights (plus English up-and-comers the Magic Numbers, who impressed with a combo of hooks, chops and charm) more than lived up to expectations. Owsley’s acid has officially been replaced by roasted corn on the cob.

3. Gary Higgins & Red Hash

WAMC Performing Arts Center, Sept. 15

This group of wizened folk-rockers brought their eponymous cult classic to life with an idiosyncratic blend of spectral folk, pensive lyrics and sudden bursts of steely synthesizers. Hopefully Higgins follows other freak-folk forerunners like Bert Jansch and Vashti Bunyan with new material this year.

4.The Billy Bang Quartet

Sanctuary for Independent Media, Oct. 13

Fiery free-jazz violinist Bang took the audience on a harrowing but ultimately joyful journey through his Vietnam War experience.

5. Michael Hurley, Tara Jane O’Neil

Sanctuary for Independent Media, May 20

An evening with Doc Snock is always enjoyable, like a night around the campfire with some long-lost hobo uncle. Tara Jane O’Neil mesmerized with her inimitable, slow-burning slowcore.

6. Hugh Masekela

The Egg, April 13

Masekela kept us off our asses with a groove that was equal parts James Brown and Fela Kuti. He also captured our hearts with his anthems, championing the worldwide oppressed and voiceless.

7. Vetiver, Gun Christmas and Gay Tastee

Valentine’s, July 25

Vetiver made a fine country-rock sound, while frontman Andy Cabic’s songwriting may have already outstripped that of old bandmate Devendra Banhart. Gun Christmas and Steve Gaylord represented the home team at our quirkiest and most passionate, respectively.

8. Richard Buckner, Luxury Flats

Valentine’s, July 17

The poet laureate of heartbroken drifters atoned for any past live transgressions with a strong set of squalling looped guitar underpinning head-spinning lyrics. Hudson’s Luxury Flats played a rare “acoustic” version of their intriguing blend of gritty rock and loping country-soul.

9. Kaki King, Yora Boon

Red Square, Dec. 12

The jaw-dropping, highbrow guitar skills of King and the brave experiments of Yoon made downtown Albany sound more like a New York City avant-garde club like Tonic or the Knitting Factory for a night.

10. Great Day for Up

Valentine’s, July 13

Philadelphia headliners Pearls and Brass couldn’t make it because of a van malfunction, so GDFU compensated by playing louder than two DC-10s crashing into your backyard. For 20-odd years of concertgoing, I prided myself on never wearing earplugs. This night of chest-grinding metal made my old ears scream for mercy (and, yes, reach for the plugs kindly provided by the Valentine’s staff)—and made for an unforgettable concert experience.


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