BEST OF 2018: Mike Stampalia’s Top 10 Concerts

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Sturgill Simpson at the Outlaw Music Festival @ SPAC

By Mike Stampalia
Photograph by Stanley A. Johnson

Narrowing down to 10 shows is tough, and I (almost!) made it. But 11 is the best I could do…

In chronological order:

NEKO CASE / MT. JOY @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany, January 15
I came for Neko, and she completely delivered. But 11 months on, Mt. Joy’s set sticks with me even more than hers.

VALERIE JUNE / THE WAR AND TREATY @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany, February 25
Preceding a rather cumbersome set by Valerie June, husband-and-wife duo The War and Treaty were simply a revelation and carried the night.

KENDRICK LAMAR @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, June 9
Heard over and over again… ”I really didn’t expect to like this much, but DAMN.”

TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND / DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS / MARCUS KING BAND @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, July 3
The annual Wheels of Soul stop at SPAC is the most no-brainer show for any Greater Nippertown music fan to attend each year. You can’t lose, and it just keeps getting better and better.

GODSMACK @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, August 21
There was a lot of chatter that Shinedown would upstage Godsmack at this show. Umm… no. Sully and the boys continue to prove that hard work, a tight band and showmanship still work.

CHRIS STAPLETON @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, August 23
An oasis in a sea of garbage country acts currently out there on the shed circuit, Stapleton was every bit as unassuming and authentic as you’d expect. The real deal at the top of his game.

JOHN HIATT & THE GONERS @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany, August 24
Hiatt remains one of this country’s most underrated songwriters, and it shows in every song in his set. Plus… Sonny freakin’ Landreth. Yikes.

THE OUTLAW MUSIC FESTIVAL @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs,, September 23
I finally got the Neil Young show I’ve been chasing for decades… right backing band (Promise of the Real), right song selection, light on the preaching. But Sturgill Simpson stunned me with the best set I saw anywhere all year… just blistering.

ANDERSON EAST / THE NEW RESPECTS @ The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, Albany, November 6
About two songs into the New Respects’ set, I thought, “Anderson made a mistake touring with these guys… he’ll never top this.” Then he somehow did. An absolutely hellacious show from start to finish.

SISTER SPARROW & THE DIRTY BIRDS @ The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, Albany, November 10
Wasn’t really sure what to make of the new album, but live, Arleigh Kincheloe remains a force.

RICHARD THOMPSON ELECTRIC TRIO @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany, November 17
At one point in the middle of “Can’t Win,” I thought The Egg was going to come off its foundations and shoot off into space. And that solo kept on coming…

MORE BEST OF THE YEAR LISTS
J Hunter’s Top Women in Jazz Albums
Fred Rudofsky’s Top 21 Concerts
J Hunter’s Jazz2K Awards
Ed Conway’s Top Concerts
Stanley A. Johnson’s Top 10 Concerts (And More)
Michael Eck’s Eastern Liberal Elite Best of the Year
J Hunter’s Top 10 Jazz2K Discs

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