LIVE: Sufjan Stevens @ the Palace Theatre, 4/15/15

April 20th, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg

Review by Greg Haymes

When a singer-songwriter performs an entire album’s worth of musical meditations on death and loss, well, you expect the concert to be something of a downer. And alt-pop iconoclast Sufjan Stevens’ recent performance at Albany’s Palace Theatre certainly was no rock & roll dance party, as he played all of the songs from his brand new album, Carrie and Lowell, penned following the death of his estranged mother.

“What is that that song you sing for the dead?” he sang during “Death with Dignity,” the opening song of the show, following the wordless, largely instrumental intro, “Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou).” But there was no one single answer. In fact, songs for the dead filled the first half of the concert, as Stevens and his backing quartet of multi-instrumentalists examined grief and mourning in all its many facets. The intensely personal songs plumbed the depths of emotional turmoil from guilt to despair to anger, and yet ultimately the concert was a glorious, deeply spiritual affirmation of life and faith.

He dealt frankly and nakedly with death, and yet discovered an underlying hope. It was, in one word, majestic.

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LIVE: The Aaron Neville Quintet @ MASS MoCA, 5/25/13

June 10th, 2013, 3:00 pm by Greg

Review by Greg Haymes

“Step right up, come on in, if you’d like to take the grand tour…”

Hearing Aaron Neville – the golden voice of New Orleans’ First Family of Funk ‘n’ Soul – sing the classic heartbreaker by the late country music legend George Jones was a vivid reminder that the barriers between musical styles – between New Orleans and Nashville, for instance – are all just in our heads.

Now I don’t mean to get all “Kumbaya” here. It takes major talent to tackle a repertoire that stretches across genres to encompass vintage Brill Building R&B, Leonard Cohen, Jimmy Reed’s blues, Burt Bacharach, Philly soul, street-corner doo-wop, a gospel hymn… and the George Jones tearjerker.

And it takes a real gift to put your own undeniable stamp on each and every one of those oh-so-diverse songs and make them your own.

But, of course, Aaron Neville’s voice is a genuine gift.

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LIVE: Smash Mouth @ the Times Union Center, 7/26/12

August 28th, 2012, 4:00 pm by Greg

LIVE: Smash Mouth @ the Times Union Center, 7/26/12

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Due to the threat sever weather, the Alive at Five concert was moved indoors to the Times Union Center in Albany. The bad weather never showed up, but it was probably a good decision nonetheless. Better to be safe than… well, you know. And it was nice to see the City (which runs the Alive at Five series) and the County (which runs the TUC) working together.

But the move indoors made the concert seem like a low-budget arena rock show rather than the usual, fun-in-the-sun party in Corning Preserve. And the truth of the matter is that ’90s pop-rockers Smash Mouth were never much more than a frat-rock party band – not even in their heyday.

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Best of 2011: Greg Haymes’ Top 20 Concerts

January 5th, 2012, 2:30 pm by Greg
Swamp Baby

Swamp Baby @ Restoration Festival (photo by Bryan Thomas)

By Greg Haymes, Nippertown writer-editor

20. Flogging Molly @ Northern Lights, Clifton Park (February 20)

19. Signal @ EMPAC at RPI, Troy (March 12)

18. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott @ Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs (May 22)

17. Elizabeth Cook @ The Linda, Albany (June 15)

16. Weird Al Yankovic @ the Palace Theatre, Albany (October 18)

15. Super 400 and the Charlie Watts Riots @ McGeary’s Pub, Albany (July 7)

14. James Farm @ The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, Albany (September 22)

13. Gogol Bordello @ Northern Lights, Clifton Park (April 1)

12. Freihofer Saratoga Jazz Festival featuring Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, the Tia Fuller Quartet, David Binney, more @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs (June 26)

11. Rosanne Cash @ MASS MoCA’s Hunter Theater, North Adams (May 28)

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Best of 2011: Greg Haymes’ Top 13 Most-Listened-To Albums

December 29th, 2011, 2:00 pm by Greg
Willy DeVille: Come A Little Bit Closer

I’m not saying that these were the best albums of the year. But they were the ones that I found myself returning to again and again and again:

13. Laura Marling’s “A Creature I Don’t Know” (Virgin)
12. Joe Ely’s “Satisfied at Last” (Rack’em)
11. Tom Waits’ “Bad as Me” (Anti-)
10. Alison Krauss & Union Station’s “Paper Airplane” (Rounder)
9. Abigail Washburn’s “City of Refuge” (Foreign Children)
8. Gillian Welch’s “The Harrow & the Harvest” (Acony)
7. Gretchen Parlato’s “The Lost and Found” (ObliqSound)
6. James Blake’s “James Blake” (Universal Republic)
5. Wilco’s “The Whole Love” (dBpm)
4. Lindsey Buckingham’s “Seeds We Sow” (Mind Kit)
3. Ry Cooder’s “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down” (Nonesuch)
2. Glen Campbell’s “Ghost on the Canvas” (Surfdog)
1. Willy DeVille’s “The Best of Willy DeVille: Come a Little Bit Closer” (Eagle)

by Greg Haymes, Nippertown writer-editor


Fred Rudofsky’s Top 10 Theater Concerts
Paste Magazine’s Top 20 New Bands
J. Eric Smith’s Top Album
Rolling Stone’s Top 10 Albums
Brian Patneaude’s Top 5 CDs
American Film Institute’s Top 10 Movies
Stanley Johnson’s Top 10 Concerts

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Best of 2011: Greg Haymes’ Top 15 Theater Productions

December 27th, 2011, 4:00 pm by Greg
Bread And Puppet Theatre:  “The Decapitalization Cabaret"

Bread And Puppet Theatre: “The Decapitalization Cabaret" (photo by Ed Atkeson)

Although this list features several dramas and musicals, it also features a number of other events that might not qualify as “theater” under stricter rules – a dance performance, a fashion/art show, an autobiographical concert, a couple of puppet shows and several performances that were simply unclassifiable.

Fortunately, there are no rules at Nippertown:

“Superior Donuts” @ Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany

Ballet Mirabor’s “Radio & Juliet” @ Proctors, Schenectady

“Guys & Dolls” @ Barrington Stage Co., Pittsfield

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Cartoonist John CaldwellCaffe LenaJim Gaudet and the Railroad BoysThe Cock'N'Bull RestaurantHolly & EvanAdvertise on Nippertown!Mohawk Hudson Humane SocietyArtist Charles Haymes