Nippertown’s Top 12 Concerts of 2009

Brave Combo
Brave Combo (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)


I tried my best to really put the screws on and nail down my Top 10 fave concerts of the year, but I simply couldn’t do it. So here’s my Top Dozen concerts.

It would have been great if there was once for every month of the year, but it didn’t quite work out that way, so just go with the flow. (Heck, three of my fave shows of the year all took place within the same week in July.)

And please keep in mind that nobody – myself included – can possibly be at all of the concerts around town. And this year, in particular, I seemed to miss a lot of the big-venue blockbuster shows. But I’ve got no complaints.

So, here’s my chronological report on the best Nippertown concerts of 2009 – at least as I saw ’em:

The Joshua Redman Double Trio @ The Egg in Albany, January 23: One of only a handful of shows that saxman Redman performed with this unusual line-up. The most ferocious and intense jazz concert of the year.

M Shanghai String Band with Ramblin Jug Stompers @ the Ale House in Troy, March 21 (also M Shanghai String Band with King Wilkie @ The Linda, October 3): OK, I’ll admit – I am a downright sucker for the funky, acoustic, neo-old-timey sound of this Brooklyn musical collective. Great musicianship, fabulous songs, but more than anything else, they’ve got the spirit.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings @ MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass., May 23: Celebrating their 10th anniversary, MASS MoCA kicked out all the jams with an old-school soul dance party that couldn’t be beat. Complete with an onstage marriage proposal.

Luka Bloom @ Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, June 16: The small-venue show of the year. In his area debut, Celtic folksinger-songwriter Bloom was completely dazzled by the enthusiastic response of the sold-out crowd, and he rose to the occasion.

Bettye Lavette (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)
Bettye Lavette (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Bettye LaVette @ Freihoffer’s Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, June 28: The circumstances weren’t the best, but veteran soul diva LaVette simply would not allow that to get in the way of her totally triumphant performance.

Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women with Grainbelt @ Revolution Hall in Troy, July 17: Roots rockin’ kingpin Alvin led his all-gal band through a rollicking rainbow of roots music from honky tonk to heart-wrenching ballads to mariachi to western swing.

Maxwell with Chrisette Michele @ the Palace Theatre in Albany, July 21: “BLACKsummer’snight” was the No. 1 album in country, but the Palace was only about half-full. Fortunately, Maxwell didn’t seem to care, serving up a sharp, smart, oh-so-steamy ‘n’ smoldering soul concert.

Mark Eitzel
Mark Eitzel

Mark Eitzel @ The Linda in Albany, July 22: Sadcore king Eitzel stood in the spotlight in front of a paltry crowd about two dozen and poured his heart into an intimate batch of American Music Club favorites and a few choice covers. I’ll never hear “Me & Mrs. Jones” the same way again.

Brave Combo @ Shepard Park in Lake George, August 12: If Eitzel’s was the saddest music of the year, Brave Crombo swung 180 degrees in the opposite direction. At least three generations danced together under the summer sky in the most fun show of the year.

Kat Edmonson @ Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass., September 6: The biggest and brightest surprise discovery of the year. This Texas jazz singer reinvented both the jazz and pop songbooks with sublime singing and unexpected arrangements.

The Boredoms (photo by Bryan Thomas)
The Boredoms (photo by Bryan Thomas)

The Boredoms @ EMPAC at RPI in Troy, September 11: Loud. As. Fuck. But mighty intriguing, nonetheless. Part concert, part megawatt drum circle, part performance-art happening – I believe this concert physically altered the molecules of my body. I’m not kidding.

The Levon Helm Band with Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels and Rodney Crowell @ Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble in Woodstock, October 10: Oh. My. God. Powerhouse music so intimate that I often felt as though I was part of the band.

1 Comment
  1. Michael Hochanadel says

    Greg, I was waiting on this one. Good calls, judging by the few we saw in common this year. Bettye LaVette is god.

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