BEST OF 2017: Greg Haymes’ Favorite Concerts, Albums, Etc.
By Greg Haymes
Photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk
I’m only one man, which means that I can’t be everywhere at once, and I can’t see every concert. I missed a lot of great shows (or at least shows that I thought would be great) this past year – everything from the Regrettes at the Low Beat to the Bob Dylan/Mavis Staples double-bill at the Palace Theatre.
So what you read here is just the low-down on 17 of my favorite concerts of 2017 – ones that I actually witnessed – in chronological order. As they say, your results may vary:
FAVORITE CONCERTS OF 2017
February 2: The Last Waltz 40 Tour @ the Palace Theatre, Albany: If there’s gonna be a Groundhog Day where I’m caught in a Bill Murray-like endlessly repeating loop, please, please, please let it be February 2, 2017, so I can enjoy this all-star tribute show over and over again.
March 30: Bryan Ferry, Judith Owen @ Proctors, Schenectady. The perfect balance of edge and elegance. Simply my favorite show of the year.
April 22: Richie & Rosie @ Sand Lake Center for the Arts, Averill Park. An evening of timeless banjo and fiddle tunes.
April 28: The Suitcase Junket @ The Linda, Albany. A one-man band for the 21st century… with songs to match.
June 15: Selwyn Birchwood Band @ the Pearl Street Pub, Albany. Barefoot blues on North Pearl Street. The best surprise of the year.
June 16: Nelson Esposito Quintana, Average Bear @ The Hangar on the Hudson, Troy. A wildly eclectic evening music.
June 24: Kevin Morby, The Shaggs @ Solid Sound at MASS MoCA, North Adams. Morby and ex-Nippertonian Meg Duffy brought the songs and the stellar musicianship; the Shaggs brought the spirit.
June 25: Hudson, Blind Boy Paxton @ Saratoga Jazz Festival, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. An all-star jazz quartet and a one-man folk fest were the highlights of the annual SPAC jazz fest.
July 2: Gillian Welch @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany. Two true voices and David Rawlings magnificent guitar playing. And David Rawlings’ show at The Egg’s Hart Theatre on December 2 was very nearly as good.
July 9: Steel Wheels @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. Caffe Lena teams up with SPAC for a free concert on the Gazebo stage. A perfect summer day.
July 16: Amadou & Miriam, Jojo Abot @ Music Haven, Schenectady. The Music Haven does it again – the best show of the summer season.
July 28: John Prine, Margo Price @ the Palace Theatre, Albany. An old favorite sounding as good as ever.
August 6: Rhiannon Giddens @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany. Few performers glow in the spotlight like the multi-talented Ms. Giddens.
August 22: Los Straitjackets @ the Hangar on the Hudson, Troy. Another top-notch homecoming concert by Rensselaer guitarslinger Eddie Angel and his band of twangmasters.
September 16: Randy Newman @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy. One amazing songbag, 10 fingers, 88 keys…
October 25: Rickie Lee Jones @ Cohoes Music Hall, Cohoes. After less than stellar performances at the Empire State Plaza and The Egg in years past, the heartbroken bohemian finally delivers the goods.
November 14: Rosanne Cash @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy. She and husband-co-songwriter-producer John Leventhal never fail to stir up the magic.
BEST OPENING ACT
Margo Price with John Prine at the Palace Theatre, Albany, July 28
Honorable mention: Jojo Abot with Amadou & Miriam @ the Music Haven, Schenectady, July 16
MOST DISAPPOINTING CONCERT
Rodriguez @ the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, September 25
Honorable mention: Maceo Parker @ Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, June 25
MOST DISAPPOINTING CONCERT CANCELLATION
Bettye LaVette @ the Cohoes Music Hall, Cohoes, December 20
Honorable mentions: Lissie @ the Hollow Bar + Kitchen, Albany, October 27; “The Songs of Lou Reed” @ Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, October 21; David Lindley @ The Egg, Albany, March 17
MOST DISAPPOINTING DOUBLE CANCELLATION
Mohammad Reza Mortazavi @ EMPAC at RPI, Troy, March 3 and December 8
FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2017
Mark Eitzel: Hey Mr. Ferryman (Merge)
The Chandler Travis Philharmonic: Waving Kissyhead, Vol. 2 & 1 (Iddy Biddy)
Chuck Prophet: Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins (Yep Roc)
Ryan Adams: Prisoner (Blue Note)
Rodney Crowell: Close Ties (New West)
The Mavericks: Brand New Day (Mono Mundo)
Beth Ditto: Fake Sugar (Myra’s Child)
Ian Felice: In The Kingdom of Dreams (Hall of Realms)
CousteauX: CousteauX (Silent X)
Brian Blade & the Fellowship: Body & Shadow (Blue Note)
Cindy Wilson: Change (Kill Rock Stars)
Charles Lloyd New Quartet: Passin’ Thru (Blue Note)
Kevin Morby: City Music (Dead Oceans)
Mavis Staples: If All I Was Was Black (Anti)
Hudson (aka, DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski, Scofield): Hudson (Motema)
Phoebe Bridgers: Stranger in the Alps (Dead Ocean)
Mica Levi: “Jackie” Original Soundtrack (Milan)
FAVORITE LOCAL 518 ALBUMS OF 2017
There was quite a batch of wonderful music produced around Greater Nippertown in the past 12 months, ranging from C.K. Flach’s haunting Empty Mansions to This Lives Here’s captivating Astrud Gilberto-meets-Julee Cruise-ish self-titled debut. But 2017 belonged to Delmar singer-songwriter Bryan Thomas, who launched the year on New Year’s Day with Songs About Books About Writers, and then followed it up with three more releases throughout the year – How Bigger Was Born, Turbulent Indie Negro and The Tiny Black Album – fearlessly addressing issues of race, creativity and the trials and tribulations of life in 2017. Oh, and he also contributed a knock-out cover of Belle-Skinner’s “We Shut Our Eyes” to the marvelous and mysterious 14-track compilation, WEXT 10, which also deserves a spot on the Best of the Local 518 list.
FAVORITE THEATER OF 2017
August 10: YOUARENOWHERE @ EMPAC at RPI, Troy
July 9: Cradle Will Rock @ SPAC’s Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Springs
December 1: The Fridge Plays: “Nick and Zoe”/”sad indie love song” @ Bridge Street Theatre, Catskill
October 31: Fun Home @ Proctors, Schenectady
August 31: After @ EMPAC at RPI, Troy
October 26: “New World Order” @ The Hangar on the Hudson, Troy
July 7: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds @ Bridge Street Theatre, Catskill
November 28: She Loves Me @ Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany
September 20: Kunstler @ Barrington Stage Company’s St. Germain Stage, Pittsfield
December 7: A Star Has Burnt My Eye @ Skidmore College’s JBK Theatre, Saratoga Springs
April 12: Beautiful @ Proctors, Schenectady
April 14: Bread & Puppet Theater @ Time + Space Ltd., Hudson (also at Solid Sound at MASS MoCA, North Adams; Henry Hudson Riverfont Park, Hudson; Enchanted City, Troy)
May 16: Hedwig & the Angry Inch @ Proctors, Schenectady
September 26: Sex With Strangers @ Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany
MORE BEST OF 2017 LISTS
AMY MODESTI’S Top Events of the Year
TIM LIVINGSTON’S Great Eight Albums
TIM REIDY’S Most Memorable Shows
FRED RUDOFSKY’S Top 35 Favorite Concerts (And Other Observations)
STEVE NOVER’S Top 50 Concerts
RICHARD BRODY’S Top 22 Concerts
MICHAEL ECK’S Top 10 Concerts
RUDY LU’S Top 12 Favorite Concerts
FRED RUDOFSKY’S Favorite 50 Albums
ED CONWAY’S Bakers’ Dozen Best Concerts
J HUNTER’S Best Jazz2K Releases (Part Deux)
DON WILCOCK’S Top 8 Blues Albums (And Year-End Rant)
WES SENECA’S Best Third Member of a Duo, Fourth Member of a Trio, Fifth Member of a Quartet…
STANLEY A. JOHNSON’S Top 12 (Or So) Live Music Performances
J HUNTER’S Best Jazz2K Releases (Part I)