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Year In Review 2008 | Food | Cinema | Theater | Dance | Art | Books | Classical | Live | Recordings

Best of 2007

Critic: Kirsten Ferguson

1. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Times Union Center, Nov. 15

This may be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, not just this year. No matter where you were, on the floor or in the cheap seats, the energy was palpable. Bruce gave his everything—transmitting the whole range of emotions he is somehow capable of arousing in an audience: the joy, the hope, the heartbreak, the excitement. Sounds corny, but damn.

2. Foo Fighters

Glens Falls Civic Center, Oct. 9

Another hardworking nice guy, Dave Grohl, came through with one of the most inspired performances of the year. Didn’t matter he was playing in a half-empty hockey rink in a quiet town; we could have been in a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

3. Detroit Cobras

Stray Bar, June 29

The Stray Bar is (was?) a cool little club, well worth the trip to Hudson to see one of the finest from Detroit’s garage rock scene. The band has probably had better nights—there were some sound troubles—but they’ve never played around here before, so it was all good.

4. Queens of the Stone Age, the Black Angels

Northern Lights, Oct. 17

Lead singer Josh Homme was feeling pretty good about the chemistry of his new Queens lineup, and it showed: They were taut, energized. The new material may be a mixed bag, but “Misfit Love” is the best song of the year. The Black Angels were working an enjoyable, hypnotic groove.

5. The Figgs

Valentine’s, Sept. 15

Most of the time, the good crowd mojo is there when the Figgs play locally and the band feeds off it; once in awhile, it’s not. But this show, which found the Figgs celebrating their 20 years together, was all great vibes: everybody was happy and hopping. In a rare move, they played all the songs on the Ginger cassette, in order.

6. TV on the Radio

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, July 23

SPAC was the last place you’d expect to see this hipster band frying in the hot late- afternoon summer sun. Despite sweat soaked brows, the band didn’t wilt in the heat, putting on an intense show that retained its dark side in the light of day.

7. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Revolution Hall, Oct. 4

There’s a core decency to Ted Leo: He comes off as an honest, politically conscious and industrious guy. To that end, he never fails to put on a hardworking rock show, drawing from the best elements of British-mod-rock groups like the Jam. And he interspersed one of his songs with a dance riff from a Daft Punk song: cheeky bugger.

8. Of Montreal, Professor Murder

Skidmore College Sports & Recreation Center, April 21

I went into the show thinking that Of Montreal were a quirky indie-rock band and left realizing they’re an infectious dance band—one with interesting fashion choices (think feather boas and unitards). The funky percussion of Professor Murder was pretty cool too.

9. Small Axe

King’s Tavern, OCT. 5

I was sitting at the bar, thinking, “DJ Miller is an amazing guitarist.” And then, “Why don’t more people know about this?”

10. Girl Talk

Falstaff’s, Skidmore College, Feb. 10

He’s a laptop DJ, which shouldn’t be that exciting to watch, but Girl Talk—a.k.a. DJ Gregg Gillis—managed to work up a sweat, remove most of his clothing and get the crowd shaking it something fierce. Gillis reprised elements of his now infamous Night Ripper album, which weaves together sampled bits and pieces from hundreds of hip-hop and rock songs.

Best of 2007

Critic: John Brodeur

1. Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble

Levon Helm Studios, Dec. 8

Pure, unadulterated joy. You say you’re willing to pay $150 to sit a football field away from Sting? To hell with that. Put your money on Levon—you can practically sit in his lap!

2. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Times Union Center, Nov. 15

Who other than Bruce could make 12,000 Albanians feel like they’re sitting onstage with him and his band? Of special note: back-to-back selections from The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle that spotlighted organist-accordionist Danny Federici, who took a leave of absence from the band six days after the show to receive cancer treatment.

3. The Figgs, the Gravel Pit

Valentine’s, Sept. 15

Halfway through an already blistering set, the Figgs played the Ginger cassette in its entirety. Without question the best club show of the year. And the Gravel Pit’s first area set in six years was a reminder of why Albany was a pretty cool place to live in the late 1990s.

4. Chris Cornell

Northern Lights, Nov. 10

Cornell looked almost as Minnesota as he felt on this night, but he sounded like Valhalla—that is to say one of the great rock singers of the last two decades still has it. Even the Audioslave songs sounded good.

5. Rose Hill Drive, Super 400

Red Square, May 1

Two bands that proudly wear the retro-rock tag played the loudest club set of the year. Colorado’s Rose Hill Drive proved why Pete Townshend handpicked them to open his own band’s tour last year (they must have been a tough act to follow, even for the Who), and Super 400 continued to stay at the front of the local-music pack by improving every time they play (their December show at Revolution Hall was further proof—they are a theater-caliber band through and through).

6. Elvis Costello

Times Union Center, Oct. 6

The guy can do anything and command an audience’s attention. I’m surprised half the crowd didn’t leave before Dylan’s abysmal set (I sure wish I had).

7. Heaven and Hell, Megadeth

Times Union Center, May 14

I think I strained my pinky and index fingers throwing the goats at this one. A badass, classic metal show, from Dave Mustaine’s righteous shredding to the epic prowl of the Dio-led Black Sabbath.

8. Velvet Revolver

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Aug. 23

Man, this was fun. Scott Weiland singing “Mr. Brownstone” was either the most unintentionally ironic or intentionally unironic concert moment of 2007. (I’m still not sure which category “Sex Type Thing” falls into, either.) The original VR material held its own against the GNR and STP classics that peppered the set.

9. Michael Penn

Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, Mass., May 3

A wealth of great pop songs, revisited.

10. “Weird Al” Yankovic

Palace Theatre, June 1

Worth it just for the fat suit.

Best of 2007

Critic: Paul Rapp

1. Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble

Levon Helm Studios, April 14

Save your pennies, pick a Saturday night, and go. If you don’t, you’re just stupid. An idiot. A big fat doo-doo head.

2. Omar Sosa

Club Helsinki, April 22

Genius alert! Put Mozart, Sly, Fripp and Eno, and Fela in a blender you’d get something like this.

3. Larry Chernicoff and Windhorse

Colonial Theater, June 2

Every couple of years, Chernicoff descends the Berkshire Mountains, assembles an ensemble of some of the best reed and string players in the business, and puts on a show that’s dignified, quiet, and unashamedly melodic and pretty.

4. Trio X

Sanctuary for Independent Media, March 24

Free-jazz masters Joe McPhee, Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen show how it’s done. The musical equivalent of a circus high-wire act with no net.

5. Songs of the Spirit

Troy savings bank Music Hall, Nov. 17

Haale, Frank London, Hugh Masekela, Tracy Odetta, a mess o’ monks, and a bunch of show-stealing Kenyan orphans light up Troy for three hours of pure joy.

6. The Blue Ribbon Boys featuring Julia Gottlieb

Club Helsinki, Nov. 9

Great Barrington homies sharpening their sepia-toned focus along with Gottlieb, a bona-fide diva in the very best sense of the word. If there had been an alt-rock scene in the 1930s, these guys would have ruled it.

7. The New Cars

Tanglewood, July 4

Todd Rundgren and Prairie Prince have flipped the dour, brittle ’80s hit-meisters into a fire-breathing party band. Infinitely better than the original. Too bad a monsoon kept the masses away.

Best of 2007

Critic: David King

1. Between the Buried and Me

Revolution Hall , Aug. 5

An awe-inspiring display of metal chops along with a healthy serving of spontaneity and audience participation made this the best show of the year. Clearly excited to be playing new material off of their then soon-to-be-released album Colors, the band worked the crowd into a frenzy with undulating prog masterpieces like “Sun of Nothing” and “Decade of Statues,” then they had a good laugh by ending the set with Collective Soul’s “Shine.” I hope to see them in a headlining position in the area again very soon.

2. Interpol, Liars

Palace Theatre, Sept. 10

Elegant, sharp, wry and witty, both the Liars and Interpol brought a little art-rock to Albany on a cold September night and made me wish Albany had more shows like this every month. Liars toyed with the crowd with their avant-noise rock and then Interpol did them in by giving them exactly what they wanted: older Interpol material.

3. Meat Puppets

Pearl Street, Sept. 5

That fuzzy feeling of familiarity and feedback enveloped the room in a warm cocoon on this Wednesday evening while the Puppets reminded me why I love rock & roll.

4. Dax Riggs

Valentines, Nov. 14

Dax Riggs delivered his heartache in a crisp, concise set delivered at workmanlike pace. When he took the stage alone for an encore with his guitar, it felt like Riggs had pulled open his rib cage to expose his heart.

5. Fu Manchu

Revolution Hall, March 20

Fu Manchu are the dank nug of the stoner-rock world. Their thick, dripping, down-tuned guitars mowed over the crowd like a Mack truck over a field of gophers.

6. Deftones

Northern Lights, June 10

This show was surprising not just because the ’Tones are supposed to be playing much larger venues, but because the set the band delivered was surprisingly lush and nuanced. The push and pull between their harsher urges and mellow tendencies ensured the Deftones set felt fresh and dramatic.

Best of 2007

Critic: Mike Hotter

1. Kahil El’Zabar and Hamiet Bluiett

Sanctuary for Independent Media, June 9

These esteemed Chicago-based free-jazzers put on a show that served as a master class in improvisation and musicianship, and made it look as easy and natural as breathing and talking—that is, without bravura, with pure feeling.

2. The Evens

Albany Public Library, Howe Branch, June 27

For an exhilarating hour or so, Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina reminded a basement full of aging, jaded punks why we first fell in love with the music so long ago.

3. Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan

Times Union Center, Oct. 6

Having seen Dylan before, I wasn’t expecting Rolling Thunder revisited, but the king this night was EC, who proved that an iconic figure doesn’t have to coast on past glories alone to give us our money’s worth.

4. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Times Union Center, Nov. 15

You know all those tiresome rants you’ve heard over the years about how Bruce and the E Street Band put on the Best Rock & Roll Show Ever (OK, maybe besides the Who in their prime), and you always thought they were full of shit? Turns out, they weren’t shittin’ ya.

5. Liars

Palace Theatre, Sept. 10

On this night, I heard some Interpol fans griping condescendingly about how “indie” their choice of opening act was. I don’t know, the Liars rocked the joint in their tribal acid-punk fashion, jumped around, switched instruments and made a glorious and inspired racket. Interpol pouted and looked dour in their scarves and made me want to leave and listen to Joy Division, or even the Church, instead. Guess who wins?

6. Medeski, Martin and Wood

The Egg, April 25

This acoustic show was an intense, if ultimately exhausting, presentation from a group who are game for anything, whether that includes trying to break free of gravity through the sheer piling up of notes, or bringing the music of the heavens down to earth with a Promethean improvisatory will.

7. The Lemonheads

Empire State Plaza, July 21

Evan Dando looked a little worse for wear, but he still sounded mighty fine rocking those great tunes he wrote back in the halcyon ’90s.

8. Los Lobos, Los Straitjackets featuring Big Sandy

Albany Riverfront Park, Aug. 9

Los Lobos kicking ass and taking names, Eddie Angel making like Link Wray’s bastard son, drinking $5 cups of beer in the summer with a bunch of state workers—it doesn’t get any better than Albany in the summer!

9. Anders Parker, Walter Salas-Humara

Valentine’s, Oct. 11

Songs about broken hearts, drugs, and living and dying beneath a ripped-open sky. Makes the Pabst Blue Ribbons go down way too easy.

10. Roger McGuinn

The Egg, March 24

Heard him play that 12-string Rickenbacker in person; now all I need is to go to the next Zep reunion and I’m straight.

Best of 2007

Critic: Shawn Stone

1. Bang on a Can All-Stars, Iva Bittová, Don Byron

The Egg, Jan. 26

This was really three shows in one, with the BOAC group doing their own thing, followed by their performances with Czech-born singer-violinist-performance artist Bittová and, finally, with composer Byron. This was cutting-edge music that incorporated elements of classical, rock, jazz and the blues, all played with a great sense of joy.

2. Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra

Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Feb. 9

The Grammy-winning composer-bandleader held a devoted audience rapt with her colorful, richly textured compositions performed by a truly wonderful band. A warm musical experience on a cold Troy night.

3. Don Preston and the Akashic Ensemble

University at Albany Performing Arts Center, Oct. 1

Experimental music whiz and longtime Zappa cohort Preston brought his “75th anniversary” tour to the Recital Hall, which attracted a motley afternoon crowd of students, musicians and Zappaphiles. A funny, revealing Q&A session was followed by an inspired, mostly improvisational quintet performance. “Help, I’m a Rock” never seemed more timely.

4. Genesis

Times Union Center, Sept. 12

Five geezers playing prog rock from three decades ago. It doesn’t get any better than this, does it?

5. American Idols Live!

Times Union Center, Aug. 30

I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this show as much if I wasn’t sitting fifth row center. From that vantage point, it was obvious that, no matter what level of corporate evil is behind American Idol, the kids on stage were having the time of their lives. And, not coincidentally, so were the kids in the audience.

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