Critic: Bill Ketzer
I got the bruises to prove it. Why these guys don’t have their
own variety show is beyond me.
Arena, Nov. 28
Shrewd, gratuitous swagger from elder rock statesmen. Gene
spit blood on my forehead and I was better for it.
Lights, Aug. 24
Every bit as good as they ever were, maybe even better with
John Bush at the helm. No relation to George.
Theatre, March 16
She makes me want to quit my day job.
Egg, Feb. 2
He demands that I quit my day job.
Skinless, Shadows Fall
Winners, Feb. 1
They put the final nail in the Nü Metal coffin once and for
all. Thank god.
Played to 23 people in a blizzard as if he were at Giants
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queens of the Stone Age
Arena, May 17
This ain’t your older brother’s Chili Peppers, but who cares?
And Queens too? Fuggetaboutit.
Béla Fleck and the Flecktones
Theatre, March 22
Insane, almost surreal talent. Unlike Billy Talent.
Theatre, June 6
Damn! Showing us how it’s done for over 40 years.
Critic: Kirsten Ferguson
The Supersuckers bill themselves as the “greatest rock and
roll band in the world” these days—and why should they be
humble? Nobody who attended the Valentine’s show would argue
with that designation. When the Seattle band tear up a stage,
their middle fingers flashed at the crowd in between every
explosive number, there’s no quibbling: The Supersuckers are
the greatest rock & roll band in the world.
Seminal punk rock band the Buzzcocks—touring 28 years after
their formation—showed no signs of age as they cranked up
the decibels, blasting through punk classics like “Orgasm
Addict” and “Ever Fallen in Love” at high speed. Frontman
Pete Shelley could barely hide his glee as the mosh-pit-inclined
crowd responded with breathless enthusiasm.
Queens of the Stone Age, Turbonegro
Lights, March 27
Queens of the Stone Age riff-rocked their way through hits
from their last two albums, and the appearance of ex-Screaming
Trees frontman Mark Lanegan, who provided guest vocals, was
more than enough to make my night. Turbonegro’s hedonistic
Alice Cooper-meets-Clockwork Orange-meets-gay sailor set was
capped off by their telling of a nonsensical, must-be-Norwegian
joke involving a badger (punch line: “Don’t call me a motherfucker,
motherfucker”). I’m still scratching my head over that one.
Hall, May 14
Effortlessly balancing sexy self-assurance with softhearted
graciousness, the charming and witty Sinatra elicited nonstop
yelps and shout-outs from adoring fans in the audience, as
she growled and purred her way through rock renditions of
her biggest hits (most notably, her chart- topping collaborations
with unconventional songwriter Lee Hazelwood).
Reverend Horton Heat, the Legendary Shack Shakers
Winners, May 9
The Heat played nonstop for two hours, dipping into their
extensive back catalog of irreverent psychobilly songs about
booze, cars and tough women. Perhaps even more entertaining
were the deranged Shack Shakers, who whipped the crowd into
a near-riot with their redneck murder boogie and crowd-baiting
Neil Young, Lucinda Williams
Two quintessential American performers (oh right, Neil Young
is Canadian) on the 4th of July—what could be better? Granted,
his Greendale theatrical performance was a bit bizarre,
but Young’s second set, featuring electrifying versions of
“Sedan Delivery” and “Powderfinger,” was awesome. And Lucinda
Williams, in a stars-and-stripes cowboy hat, had a crack band
who added a barroom swagger to some of her quieter numbers.
Beck, the Black Keys
From the jerky, robotic moves of his band to the futuristic
keyboard effects and the monochromatic stage lights, Beck’s
SPAC show was a highly enjoyable Devo-meets-Kraftwerk revival.
The Black Keys barely took up any space on the SPAC stage
with their minimalist setup, but the duo pounded out a fair
bit of racket, equal parts Southern rock and traditionalist
Badly Drawn Boy
Egg, Nov. 4
Love it or hate it, Badly Drawn Boy’s set at the Egg was never
boring: The rumpled British songwriter cracked jokes, rambled
between songs and paid tribute to his hero Bruce Springsteen.
But the guy has great songs, so it was worth sitting through
all the distractions (which, personally, I found to be entertaining).
Somebody forget to tell Jason Ringenberg that it’s not a good
idea to leave Nashville for upstate New York in the heart
of January. Still, the former Jason & the Scorchers singer
made the most of the night, as he whooped and hollered and
generally kicked up a Tennessee storm in front of the small
Hot Hot Heat, the Sun, the Erotics
With tense pop hooks, agitated vocals and herky-jerky rhythms,
Hot Hot Heat inspired the audience to handclap and dance along
to their twitchy new-wave hits. The Sun were a pleasant surprise
of ’60s garage and spastic punk rock, while the Erotics blasted
out their entertaining anthems of sleaze.
Critic: David Greenberger
1. The Chandler Travis Philharmonic
Northampton, Mass., Nov. 8
Why oh why doesn’t everyone within sight of these words do
themselves a favor and see this band? Bring the whole family.
Museum, Pittsfield, Mass., March 7
A stroll through one man’s love of varied American musics.
Helsinki, Great Barrington, Mass., April 24
America’s finest surrealist troubadour.
They Might Be Giants
Egg, July 18
Even hearing the song again and again, it never fails to dazzle
when everyone in the band jumps up and down to the opening
strains of “Birdhouse in Your Soul.”
Loudon Wainwright III, Erin McKeown
Egg, April 11
The old guard and the new, both captivating in their own personal
MoCA, North Adams, Mass., May 25
A night made all the more memorable with the inclusion of
the tribute to her then-recently-deceased stepmother, June
Critic: Erik Hage
1. Lustre Kings, Eddie Angel, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys
J.P. Cruise Line, July 14
One of the main reasons I can’t tolerate complaints about
the Capital Region music scene: We have one of the finest
collectives of rock and roll players on the planet. The Lustre
Kings. Graham Tichy. John Tichy. Johnny Rabb. Albany prodigal
son Eddie Angel. The headliner (gearing up for Conan
the next night) was California’s Big Sandy; my heart and ears
were upstairs with the local boys.
The Pernice Brothers
Joe Pernice’s songs almost sounded better than on his remarkable
album during this, the opening night of the group’s national
tour. It was a brilliant stroke to have the Pernices play
downstairs in the Valentine’s multiplex. A packed house got
a great show.
Theater, Woodstock, Oct. 4
A bright moon in October after the rains means the deer are
on the move. But it was worth braving the windy Catskills
roads for the ultimate roots-rock experience. And what a great
State Plaza, Aug. 27
The plaza always finds a way to cap off the summer perfectly.
Last year it was Cracker; this year it was the brainy and
soulful Rosanne Cash, who delivered a crackin’ set with her
top-notch roots-pop ensemble.
Brand New Opry #1
Here’s another reason why I can’t stomach complaints about
our music scene. Jeff Burger debuted his outstanding, good-time
music series on this night. It soon went from bimonthly to
monthly (and is still going strong. . . . I’ll see you there).
For the first show, he tapped into our finest local Americana
talent. It was a treat to catch Hayseed, the Coal Palace Kings
and knotworking under one roof, all turning in wonderful sets.
Remarkably, the small crowd stood like Mount Rushmore as Cleveland’s
finest garage punkers and a bespectacled J. Mascis tore the
Stooges’ Fun House a new one. Then J piled his guitar
and Euro-stylish female companion into his tiny Subaru and
followed Verde to the next town.
Tired Skin: An Alejandro Escovedo Benefit
The outpouring of nationwide support for Escovedo, who is
suffering from severe Hepatitis complications, has been amazing.
Local troubadour Michael Eck put together our own fitting
and proper benefit. A night of great music with everyone’s
heart in the right place. (Even that potty-mouthed wunderkind
Johnny Rabb and (some of) Rocky Velvet
The players in the Capital Region’s rockabilly/rock-and-roll
collective play in so many incarnations that it’s hard to
keep track. So imagine my amazement, when looking for a pint
after the Skynyrd concert, I stumbled upon this spontaneous
rock & roll experience. It was an archetypal Albany night
on the block on which Melville once allegedly lived and wrote.
Mayor Jerry even strolled in, pressed a few hands and took
up residence at the bar while Graham Tichy pressed golden
notes from the fretboard.
One of the wonderful surprises of the year was this uncanny
new local band, who kicked off the Brand New Opry #5 with
a jaw-dropper of a set.
Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon
Arena, July 12
Fine. Whatever. Sue me. A good tune is a good tune is a good
tune is a good tune. Call me unhip: I don’t care.
Critic: John Brodeur
Lights, Nov. 1
Only about 200 smart concertgoers came out to see E and company
do their thing in November. The rest of you deserve a big
ol’ kick in the ass because not only was this the best show
of the year, but odds are we won’t get another shot at seeing
this band around here anytime soon. You people should really
start reading your memos.
After more than 25 years as Buzzcocks, Steve Diggle and Pete
Shelley showed no signs of slowing down with age in their
Valentine’s performance, a 75-minute barrage of ’cocks classics,
old and new. “Harmony in My Head”? Check. “Orgasm Addict”?
Of course. “Noise Annoys”? Hell, yeah. All that, plus about
A long tour can often drain a band to where their performance
becomes rote and uninspired, but Brooklyn’s Nada Surf were
positively electric after two months on the road, referencing
both the Smiths and New Order and dropping jaws with songs
from the excellent Let Go.
All Sports Pub, Oct. 10
It might not have been as intoxicating for anyone other than
Smithereens devotees, but the handful of fans that showed
up knew every word, and for them, DiNizio’s performance was
a classroom lesson on power-pop songwriting, with examples
from the books of Lennon/McCartney and Osbourne/Iommi to boot.
Egg, Nov. 23
Wainwright’s voice wasn’t fully on his side, but to hear every
wonderful, gigantic song from Want One brought to life
was stirring. So powerful was the performance that when all
eight members of the band opened their mouths to sing together,
you could almost hear the cracking of the Egg’s shell.
Belle & Sebastian
Theater, Nov. 12
The weepy Scottish ensemble returned to the States for a series
of shows in support of their strongest release in years (Dear
Catastrophe Waitress), sounding confident, rehearsed and
better than ever. They also brought along the best lightshow
of the year, non-arena division.
Early into their latest tour, you could still hear the band
sharpening the edges of their live performance, but that didn’t
subtract a bit from the jaw-dropping power of those perfect,
beautiful, heartbreaking songs. Joe Pernice is the best songwriter
of his generation; guitarist Peyton Pinkerton makes an excellent
Matthew Loiacono, Bryan Thomas
Spaces, Feb. 21
Loiacono stepped out with a hushed and captivating set at
the release party for his proper solo debut, A Book About
the Rest. BT warmed it way up, splicing some stirring
spoken-word pieces in with his unique mixture of rock, funk
and soul—although on this night, it almost felt like gospel.
9. The Figgs
Despite a few lackluster local performances earlier in the
year, the skinny boys from ’toga came to play for their annual
holiday show, and play they did. A healthy dose of oldies
(due in part to the rerelease of Ready, Steady, Stoned)
mingled with newer fare, proving that, after 16 years, the
Figgs are still at the top of their game.
Hot Hot Heat
Their December show at Northern Lights was a disappointment,
but that’s mostly because their Valentine’s show was such
a hoot. Steve Bays pranced around like a combination of Mick
Jagger and a superball, and the band’s quirky, danceable indie
rock turned the place into an alternate-universe disco, at
least for 45 minutes.
1. Cassandra Wilson
Egg, Nov. 22
Wilson and her five-piece band (featuring Terri Lynn Carrington
on drums) blended jazz, blues, rock and Afropop into something
amazing. What once seemed merely eclectic is now much more—her
own genre? While Wilson’s phrasing has become more precise
and spare, her stage presence has grown more relaxed and warm.
Savings Bank Music Hall, Oct. 1
America’s best-known misanthrope took a break from hauling
in Disney soundtrack cash to tour. This solo evening showcased
the amazing breadth of his songbook, as well as Newman’s own
obvious, and mildly surprising, pleasure in performing.
Nile Rodgers and Chic
Park at the Corning Preserve, Aug. 9
God knows that Nile Rodgers isn’t touring because he needs
the money. This ultra-funky, big-band edition of Chic—two
percussionists, two singers, two keyboardists, a bassist and
Rodgers on guitar—must be a labor of love. They kept people
dancing through a downpour at the Corning Preserve, as brightly
lit boats cruised the Hudson behind them. Ah, summer.
Egg, Feb. 8
Maybe it was because Mann and her band had been up since 5
AM, or because it was near the end of the tour, but they weren’t
holding anything back. When a chucklehead called out for “Freebird,”
Mann brought him onstage and had him sing backup on a great
cover of “Sweet Home Alabama.” Rock & roll, baby.
Theatre, May 1
The Palace Theatre looked great for its grand reopening, but
Tony Bennett was pretty suave himself. Mixing his hits with
pop standards, Bennett and his band were true musical elegance.
And when he wasn’t singing, he was listening to the musicians—Bennett
never left the stage during the 90-minute set. That’s cool.