BEST OF 2015: Tim Mack’s Top 10 Concerts

Robert Plant at Mountain Jam
Robert Plant at Mountain Jam

Reviews and photographs by Tim Mack

10. Eric Church @ the Times Union Center, Albany, March 12
With his ’80s metal guitars and whiskey-soaked swagger, the baddest of the modern country bad boys gave the arena everything he had and then some. (Simply having the musical temerity to use the Drive-By Truckers as his opening act would have been enough to land him on this list.) Whether his over-the-top lyrics are truly heartfelt or tongue-in-cheek, the cup-raisin’, hell-raisin’ crowd didn’t care. They just had a good time.

9. Cyrille Aimee @ The Egg, Albany, February 13
Four brilliant musicians backing one of the brightest rising stars in jazz made this pre-Valentine’s Day show one of the hottest nights of a long, cold winter. Gypsy jazz has seldom sounded so good. Or so fun.

8. Heart @ the Palace Theatre, Albany, July 27
How is it Ann Wilson still sounds as good in person as she did on record back in 1976? No idea. But she does. And sister Nancy Wilson and their backing band put on a show of great hits and killer Zeppelin covers for one of the musical highlights of the summer.

7. Kenny Chesney @ the Times Union Center, Albany, April 23
The country music nice guy brought his modern sounds in country and western to the TU Center, complete with bright lights, big sounds, rum-and-sand lyrics and a little AC/DC to boot. It’s a Nashville machine, but it’s one of the best machines in the business.

6. The Gibson Brothers @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, March 27
A show that combined wry wit and scintillating musicianship, Eric and Leigh Gibson owe an equal debt to the Monroe Brothers and the Smothers Brothers. The two-time Bluegrass Entertainers of the Year for good reason.

5. The Lone Bellow @ The Egg, Albany, July 10
One of the many acts to play the intimate setting of the Egg’s Swyer Theatre that should be playing sold-out 4,000-seat venues. Three-part harmonies, equally mixing grit, sweetness and soul, they’ve got an arena-sized sound and could be the new face of Americana music.

4. Mark Knopfler @ the Palace Theatre, Albany, October 11
With such a vast and varied body of work to choose from (both his solo albums and the Dire Straits years), there’s no way a two-hour show can give every fan everything they wanted, but Knopfler came close. He’s got one of the biggest and most talented backing bands in the business, and he put each musician to good use in songs about everything from working musicians to star-crossed lovers to pirates sailing the Barbary coast. A well-deserved sell-out.

3. Joe Jackson @ The Egg, Albany, October 27
A show begun with great expectations, and by the time the British piano man plays the final chords to “A Slow Song” you realize the career-spanning concert was even better than you’d hoped. All the standing ovations and rapturous applause was well earned.

2. J.D. McPherson @ The Hangar, Troy, August 31
This was your chance to climb into the Wayback machine and witness the dawn of rock and roll all over again. The Oklahoman brought his raw, inventive retro sound to Troy for a show that illustrated why rock music was so subversive when it first dawned more than a half-century ago. And The Hangar was the perfect venue for a night of “dangerous” music.

1. Grace Potter/Robert Plant @ Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain, Hunter, June 5
Individually, each of these performances was among the best in the Greater Nippertown area this year, but back-to-back on the same night? There was no topping it. Potter was electric in the rain, and the Golden God held the misty mountain crowd in the palm of his hand. The best concert experience of the year.

Grace Potter at Mountain Jam
Grace Potter at Mountain Jam
Grace Potter at Mountain Jam
Grace Potter at Mountain Jam
Robert Plant at Mountain Jam
Robert Plant at Mountain Jam

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