Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Top 20 New York Area Concerts of 2007

We’ve done the top 100 songs of 2007, and the top 20 albums of the year, and now it’s time for what we like best, the live stuff. Since any attempt to rank these shows by sheer exhilaration factor would an exercise in futility, they’re listed chronologically. If the show you saw, or the show you played isn’t here, that doesn’t mean it was bad, that just means that in all likelihood we didn’t see it. There are more live gigs in New York in one evening than we saw all year long, and we were trying hard to go out as much as possible and to see the most diverse range of stuff we could, for the benefit of all you readers. Also keep in mind that a pandora’s box of factors that have nothing to do with a band or artists’s performance come into play here, from the sound system to the general comfort level of the venue to how well a club treats the musicians onstage. As with our other year-end lists, take this with a grain of salt: consider it a sounding of sorts, a general indication of what was happening last year in one small demimonde.

Mary Lee’s Corvette at Rodeo Bar, 1/17/07
Two sets of old rarities and current classics from the greatest rock singer of our generation, and a scorching four-guitar edition of her band.

The Avengers at Bowery Ballrooom, 2/3/07
Classic punk done by the most crucial half of the original band (frontwoman Penelope Houston and guitarist Greg Ingraham), less of a nostalgia show than a clinic in good fun.

Justin Bischof at the organ at St. Thomas Church, 3/11/07
The scheduled organist cancelled at the last minute, so the former St. Thomas assistant organist did improvisations, including a symphony that he made up on the spot. Nothing short of phenomenal.

Big Lazy at Luna, 5/20/07
The cd release show for their latest album Postcards from X saw the band thrashing through the instrumentals on their most diverse album to date with predictably fiery, macabre results.

Melomane at Hank’s, 6/7/07
The art-rock band at their majestic, epic best, sounding crystal-clear through the excellent PA at this Brooklyn country music bar

LJ Murphy at the Knitting Factory, 6/12/07
The rock world’s reigning lyrical genius played a typically passionate, fiery show backed by a great Rickenbacker guitarist and rhythm section.

System Noise at Broadway and West 3rd St., 6/21/07
The high point of the first-ever Make Music New York citywide outdoor music festival – that we were able to see before the rain started – was these scorching female-fronted art/noise/punk rockers.

The Mingus Big Band and Orchestra at Damrosch Park, 8/26/07
The grand finale of the year’s Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival was the single best show we saw all year, no contest. A dark, stormy, virtuosic and breathtaking performance by a crowd of great players who realize that Mingus might be the greatest American composer ever.

Amanda Thorpe, Randi Russo and Ninth House at Hank’s, 8/26/07
The haunting Britfolk chanteuse followed by the equally haunting, chromatically inclined indie rock siren, and then the Nashville gothic rockers who at that point had just discovered improvisation, and were having a great time with it.

Chicha Libre at Barbes, 9/29/07
A wild, danceable, completely psychedelic performance of brilliant obscurities from the Peruvian Amazon circa 1972, as well as some originals that sounded completely authentic

Moisturizer at Black Betty, 10/10/07
Two sweaty, bacchanalian sets by the funnest instrumental band on the planet.

Mark Steiner at Otto’s, 10/16/07
He may have played his one New York show of the entire year with a pickup band, but the chemistry of the group was adrenalizingly contagious to the point where the club’s dodgy sound became a moot point.

Golem and Rasputina at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Halloween
Deliriously danceable, oldtime orthodox Jewish dance music followed by a riveting show by the ever-darker, apocalyptically-minded chamber-rock trio.

Dina Dean at Rockwood Music Hall, 11/8/07
She’s always been an A-list tunesmith, but having a band behind her to passionately deliver her beautifully soulful songs is one of the best developments we’ve seen lately.

The Greenwich Village Orchestra Plays Rimsky-Korsakov, Bruch, Lam and Richard Strauss at Washington Irving HS Auditorium, 11/18/07
A sweeping, majestic, virtuosic show by a world-class orchestra bringing out all the earthy danceability of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Easter Overture, the longing and anguish of Bruch’s Kol Nidre, and the fascinating timbres of a world premiere by Angel Lam. And then they pulled out all the stops for Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration. And made it indelibly their own.

Paula Carino, Tom Warnick & World’s Fair and Erica Smith & the 99 Cent Dreams at the Parkside, 11/28/07
The brilliantly lyrical-minded, very funny Carino, the even funnier and inspiring Warnick and the ever-more-captivating, jazz-minded Smith played what was probably the best triple bill anywhere in New York last year.

The Inbreeds at Banjo Jim’s, 12/9/07
In a hilarious, somewhat stagy show that really ought to be brought to Broadway, the world’s funniest country parody band made fun of every conceivable style of country music.

John Scott Plays The Birth of Our Lord by Messiaen at St. Thomas Church, 12/20/07
Attuned to every emotion in this complex, absolutely haunting suite, Scott brought each and every one of them to life with verve and passion.

James Apollo at Banjo Jim’s, 12/20/07
The southwestern gothic songwriter impressed with a dusty, hypnotic set of one good song after another, not a single clunker. That doesn’t happen often.

Rachelle Garniez at Joe’s Pub, 12/22/07
The cd release for her new one, Melusine Years was a dark, terse yet devastatingly funny and entertaining affair. Just like the album

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January 14, 2008 Posted by | classical music, concert, jazz, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Twilight Time

Fall is the most beautiful season. Spring slips away and before we notice, it’s gone. In this age of global warming, we take cover and burn while Brian Wilson’s dream – the endless summer – scorches the earth and fevers our minds to the point of delirium. We long for a respite, some karmic reward for the endless months of toil, sweat and forebearance while what’s left of the sky above us sizzles and disappears. And just when it seems that there will be no vacation and the summer is really going to last forever, we get a break. In the twilight of our lives, the twilight of life on earth as we know it, comes a respite. We can breathe again, and walk under the stars. We have been handed a reprieve.

And with this reprieve comes a renewed sense of hope, a hope against all hope that perhaps all hope is not lost after all. Autumn is for romantics – and Romantics. Count us in the latter category. All that is most precious takes on an even greater significance when you realize that it’s not going to last forever. Perhaps that’s why we evolved, or mutated, as we did: if we knew that there would be tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, then perhaps we’d have no reason to savor what we have, preserve what we were lucky enough to be born into, temporary as it may be. Armageddon would be meaningless if every day was Groundhog Day, always coming around again no matter how badly we fucked up.

Last night at Hank’s, in the disarming, dusky cool, Ninth House played an elegy for the human spirit. It was a swinging, relaxed requiem, part bitter and resigned yet possessed of a great power and generosity of spirit. As dark as this band’s vision is, they still find a way to have fun. What Ninth House does is completely anathema to the trendoid esthetic. Their songs are towering, majestic, passionate, in touch with everything that makes life worth living, driven by righteous anger, raging against the dying of the light. So many of their songs deal with death, but they’re not going out without a fight. Last night they fought and, for now, they won. They’ve been through several different incarnations, particularly recently – but this band has never sounded better. And they didn’t even have their most powerful weapon – brilliant violinist Susan Mitchell – with them tonight.

They opened auspiciously with Long Stray Whim, from their most recent album. It’s an uncharacteristically upbeat song, played in a major key, a pummeling anthem about escaping crushing, workday drudgery, going off to somewhere where hope exists. It could be the theme song for any kid stuck in a prison called public school, or anyone putting in meaningless hours for a minimal reward for people who couldn’t care less about anyone other than themselves. Later they played Mistaken for Love, a swaying, ferociously accusatory country song about the dissolution of a marriage, and extended it by several bars while their new guitarist took a long, fiery solo. He took an even longer, more searing one at the end of the slow, ominous Jealousy, building to the point where the song’s relentless tension built to where it could no longer be contained and exploded in a ball of flame. Drummer Francis Xavier played the best show he may have ever done with this band, swinging the beat like crazy. Ever since the band brought in the new keyboardist, guitarist and violinist, he’s taken it to the next level. No matter what happens to this band – knowing them, they’ll probably be around for another ten years – this guy will always have a gig. Too few rock drummers have his timing or his ability to flat-out groove.

The band gamely tackled the old Sisters of Mercy goth hit Nine While Nine, even though it didn’t seem that they’d had the chance to rehearse it much, and managed to pull it off, even if the song missed its poignant central hook. Their swinging version of the Nashville gothic song Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me replicated all the knowing, confrontational majesty of the version on their album Swim in the Silence. And their roaring, closing cover of Ghost Riders in the Sky got some unlikely dancers swaying and whirling in front of the stage. The audience refused to let them leave the stage, even though they’d run out of material that everyone in the band knew how to play, so frontman Mark Sinnis put down his gorgeous, black hollowbody Gretsch bass, picked up the guitarist’s Strat and played a beautifully plaintive, country-inflected new song called That’s Why I Won’t Love You. The bar – a usually raucous late-night rock n roll hangout – went completely silent. Nights like this are why people stay in New York even as rents rise, beloved city institutions are shuttered and torn down and the summers become ever more unbearable. We may not have many more nights like this, or autumns like this, to look forward to, certainly not in what remains of this city, physically and esthetically. Let’s enjoy them while we’re still here.

October 13, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment