BEST OF 2017: Stanley A. Johnson’s Top 12 (Or So) Live Music Performances
Story and photographs by Stanley A. Johnson
Following a couple of years of health issues which severely curtailed my entertainment attendance, this year I was able to let music work its’ healing magic. As a result, where last year I really had to stretch to come up with a Best Of list, this year I had so many candidates that it was difficult to prune this list. It may also be that I am much more grateful for the experiences I did have, especially when considering the alternative.
In no particular order, I had a transcendental time at:
1. King Yellowman @ Alive at 5 at Corning Preserve, Albany on August 3. Next time I start feeling sorry for myself, I need to remember the trials of this reggae pioneer and the way he kicked ass despite the past. “Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt…” but if you weren’t moving at this show, maybe you need to see a doctor.
2. Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires @ Empire State Plaza, Albany on July 27. If I ever feel like giving up, I’ve got to remember this incredible soul artists’ show just two months before he died. (Special thanks to Tom Petty for having the same dedication.)
3. Freddie McGregor @ Empire State Plaza, Albany on June 28. The second reggae show on my list. Must be something spiritual if it felt this good to dance.
4. ZZ Top @ Proctors, Schenectady on February 26. It was the performance, but it was also the connection: Billy Gibbon’s father grew up in my birthplace of Gloversville, and he mentioned it during the show. Welcome back, guitarslinger.
5. Security Project @ the Van Dyck in Schenectady on November 11. The best homecoming of the year was Happy Rhodes’ return as part of this Peter Gabriel tribute band organized by drummer Jerry Marrotta and guitarist Trey Gunn. I could listen to her sing the phone book. (Happy fans should be on the lookout for the reissue of her first four albums on CD, as well as a new compilation on vinyl.)
6. A three-way tie featuring Woodstock bassmaster Tony Levin – King Crimson @ The Egg, Albany on November 9; the Stick Men at the Van Dyck, Schenectady on August 11; and the Levin Brothers Band (with Pete Levin on piano) @ at the Van Dyck, Schenectady on March 31.
7. Adrian Belew Power Trio @ The Egg, Albany on May 12. Power is right, including another strong dose of Crimson. And Mr. Levin was in the audience, as well.
8. Renaissance @ The Egg, Albany on October 29. Not that I’m a prog-head (when IS Steve Wilson coming back?), but this orchestra-enhanced outfit was in full-flight behind Annie Haslam’s stunning vocals.
9. Three-way tie for best jazz event of the year, including Bela Fleck & the Flecktones with the Chick Corea Electric Band @ The Egg, Albany on August 5; the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival @ the Corning Preserve, Albany on September 9, and the Lake George Jazz Weekend @ Shepard Park, Lake George on September 16. I love long days and nights of jazz.
10. Three-way tie for best Saratoga Performing Arts Center concerts, and not one of them on the big amphitheater stage, but rather on the new Gazebo Stage. The Caffe Lena @ SPAC concert series featured long, hot, sunny days of free folk, rock, bluegrass and Americana music on June 11, July 9 & August 27. I really hope this series returns in 2018.
11. Sawyer Fredericks Band @ Freedom Park in Scotia on June 21, and also at the Stickermule Festival in Amsterdam on September 23. I never even saw “The Voice,” but these shows induced me to listen to his CD, which also deserves being recognized as one of the best of 2017. Yes, and there’s that local connection. I don’t want to hear anymore crabbing about local entertainment, particularly after seeing Moriah Formica. Face it, folks: Greater Nippertown is finally cool, and not just because it’s winter.
12. OK, I’m running out of space, and I haven’t even mentioned the outstanding Music Haven Series in Schenectady (Thanks, Mona!), the Riverlink Summer Concert Series in Amsterdam (welcome to my neighborhood!) and, I never thought I’d be writing this, but the enlightening hip-hop show by Naughty By Nature, Dirty Moses and DJ Trumastr @ Alive at 5 in Corning Preserve, Albany on June 22. Just goes to show that you’re never too old to broaden your musical horizons…
MORE BEST OF 2017 LISTS
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