1 – American Songbook Presents Rhiannon Giddens At Alice Tully Hall, Saturday, May 13th, 2017 – Barefoot and very lovely, Rhiannon defined a form of idealized womanhood, whether sad, angry, or laughing, there was a steeliness about her performance that fit her subject matter very well
2 – Frank Ocean And Solange At Panorama, Randall’s Island, Friday, July 29th -The next album will tell the story for both artists, but for Friday night alone, this was the state of people of color black art school soul music. It was perfect even within its limitations, seeming to exist in an alternative world a million years away from the brutal DC of 2017, Solange and Frank Ocean are the faces of r&b today.
3 – Paul McCartney, Madison Square Garden, Friday, September 15th – Paul is 75 years old, and he performed for three hours without an intermission. I’ve seen Sir Paul many times and this was possibly the best
4 – Swet Shop Boys At Webster Hall, Wednesday, April 12th – Swet Shop Boys make jokes and write raps that stick in your craw. At their best when they are at their funniest they get away with wearing their concerns on their sleeves when necessary and the East Asian girls lap it up.
5 – George Strait’s “Strait To Vegas” At the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Saturday, February 18th – Performing in the round, he moves in and out of the center of his band, always at service to what he and Ace in The Hole are doing. “I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time” he sings and that, my friends, is the essence of country. and of everything else.
6 – Kesha At Hammerstein Ballroom, Monday, October 9th – There were moments of such intense pleasure last night, such exacting and genuine coming together in a world where Transgendered people are finding their hard fought and won rights decimated by a society more scared of people’s personal identity than the prospect of a nuclear apocalypse. “Don’t let the bastards get you down?” Kesha didn’t
7 – Third Annual Steez Day At Playstation Theatre, Friday, July 7th – There is something completely pure about these kids, it is all about the rapping and only about the rapping, the fashion, the shirts, everything else takes a second place to the constant cadence and attack of so many great rhymers
8 – Marla Mase’s “Miracles – Lost And Found A Rock And Roll Rumination,” At DCTV, Saturday, December 17th – A protoplasmic, prestigiously gifted, and yet unknowable sink into a deeply troubled psyche
9 – Harry Styles, Radio City Music Hall, Thursday, September 28th – The superbly produced and very professional evening was tight as a drum, as was Harry and his band of four, though I wish Harry had thought out his set list just a touch more.
10 – Tegan And Sara’s “The Con X” At King’s Theatre, November 8th – If you don’t think Costello should be advocating for heterosexuality, why should you expect Sara to be a spokesperson for lesbians? As it happens, the sisters are integral parts of the LGBTQ community, but what has that to do with music as such, the songs are about romance in distress and that’s what they are about.
11 – Jason Isbell And the 400 Unit – Beacon Theatre – Friday, June 23rd – Americana’s greatest moment, Isbell brings the family for a set of modern Southern gentleman rock and country and southern rock.
12 – Micky Dolenz’s “A Little Bit Broadway, A Little Bit Rock And Roll” At 54 Below, Friday, March 24th – Micky has spent his career in this world of pure imagination and any time he wants to share it with us be sure to plunk your money down and watch him do it.
13 – Maria Taylor At Rockwood 2, Saturday, February 11th – I’ve waited literally years to see Maria on stage and she failed to disappoint in the slightest, a wonderful set by our most underrated songwriter, she managed to make a fairly major disaster, the lack of a piano, into another cheerful mishap on the road of life
14 – Elton John’s “The Million Dollar Piano” At The Coliseum At Caesar’s Palace, Sunday, February 20th – Elton reclaims his career for a set that plays very well to his greatest skill: that as a past member of the glam rock Hall Of Fame, and he can return to it with the greatest of ease
15 – Diana Ross At City Center, Saturday, April 29th – A legend near the top of her game.
16 – Complexions Contemporary Ballet Presents “Gutter Glitter” And “Stardust” At Joyce Theatre, Saturday, January 28th – I was at a matinee, an opportunity for children to see it, and the children seemed as enthralled as I was. I don’t know much about ballet, but I know tons about pop culture and I haven’t seen a better example of the ability of pop culture to make people happy since “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” last year at the Palace
17 – Brand New At King’s Theatre, Thursday, October 19th – if singing about the attempt to become whole is an act of being whole, they keep searching for the lit of the light over and over again. “Lit me Up” uses the petrol emotion of “Gasoline” to inflame the idea of oneself
18 – Eric Church’s “Holdin’ My Own” Tour At Barclay Center, Friday, January 27th – Maybe he is a lightweight in some ways. Or maybe he brings his own weight to the proceedings. Either way, round here the buzz is that Church is a must see.
19 – Alice Cooper At Jones Beach Theatre, Saturday, August 26th – Yeah, it was a fine set with all your old faves, Frankenstein’s monster, death by guillotine, billion dollar bills y’all, hitting the spots with the ease only time can bring.
20 – Mega Summer Concert At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, August 24th – If you weren’t in Puerto Rico, New York City was the next best thing Thursday night.
Z100 Jingle Ball At Madison Square Garden, Friday, December 8th – No hip hop, no Reggaeton, but from Ed Sheeran to Taylor Swift, everything else in pop.
Arcade Fire At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, September 12th – The Arcade Fire set was exactly what you think it was, a handful off the new album, a smaller handful off the album before that, and all the hits
Governors Ball At Randall’s Island – Friday June 2nd to Saturday June 3rd – The usual mishmash, but both Lorde and Danny Brown gave top performances.
Gillian Welch At Beacon Theatre, Wednesday, August 2nd – Outstanding musicians, at ease
Bob Dylan And Mavis Staples At the Beacon Theatre, Friday, November 24th – The set itself was brilliantly conceived. Five American Songbook, five golden age, nine late 20th and through 21st century songs and one off a movie soundtrack. At 105 minutes in length it was a consistently pleasurable experience with a couple of songs more than thaton stage, holding forth on folk and its variants, a long way from home but still not that far.
Jay-Z And Vic Menza At Barclay Center, Monday, November 27th – The 32 song set was a pleasure, he overdid 4:44 but he knows how to program a setlist and he did it well, the live band gave him a real backbone and if his woke stuff bores me to death, there wasn’t so much that it was a distraction and he’s right any way.
Morrissey at The Theatre AT Madison Square Garden, Saturday, December 2nd – a pleasant, unassuming, strong and competent performance. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and if he can’t change either lives or minds any more, he can still sing very well
Chance The Rapper, Forest Hills Stadium, Friday, September 26th – Chance is energetic, and he really moves well, he may end up being one of the greats, and I admire his semblance of ethics: he seldom descends to cliché and if it is all a little a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man
The True Groove All-Stars, Featuring Khalil Kain, At Pianos, Sunday, October 8th, – The evening ended with what feels like the start of 2018, the Doncker- Komunyakaa composition “Black Magnolia,” a song so great it has become the working name for the eagerly awaited follow up to The Mercy Suite. It may be the best thing Doncker has ever put his name to, certainly the best ballad: it is an inky blue look into the darkness, into the heart of the oblivion
James Taylor And Bonnie Raitt At Prudential Center, Thursday, July 6th – Working in front of a healthy backing band, who he introduces over and over again and for good reason, he keeps popping in the hits and adds in occasional obscurities, as he performs in front of TaylorWorld, huge screens filled with closed circuit visions of the band as we are watching them, and film and images dotting the Taylor landscape, changing the small scale intimacy of Taylor into a larger than life mythos
True Groove All-Stars: The Global Soul Throw Down At Bowery Electric, Wednesday, April 5th – A jam-packed with up and coming stars show in a showcase for all
The Chainsmokers – Forest Hills Stadium – Saturday, June 10th – The EDM duo know their way around a pop song and when they popped out they were unbeatable and when they EDM jones they weren’t good enough.
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra – Carnegie Hall – Friday, March 31st – Performing John Adams opera “The Gospel According To The Other Mary”.
Roger Waters “Us + Them,” Barclay Center, Monday, September 11th – Waters performance was excellent, his hoarse and strained vocals perfect for the anger and alienation and a great band simulating Pink Floyd
Eric Clapton At Madison Square Garden, Monday, March 20th – Far from the best time I’ve ever seen the living legend, it was as beneficent a farewell as possible.
Niall Horan At Beacon Theatre, Tuesday, October 31st – A little bland, but tuneful and pleasant and baby Americana for teens.
Ryan Adams At The Apollo Theatre, Thursday, February 16th – It is really a shame this didn’t play out better, and I don’t think it is just me who doesn’t much care for the distancing effect of Ryan’s jokes.
Alice Cooper At Jones Beach Theatre, Saturday, August 26th – Yeah, it was a fine set with all your old faves, Frankenstein’s monster, death by guillotine, billion dollar bills y’all, hitting the spots with the ease only time can bring.
Lindsey Buckingham And Christine McVie At Beacon Theatre, Thursday, August 10th – Another rush of Mac songs, including a “Tusk” to remind you of “Too Far Gone”‘s genesis. “Too Far Gone” was surrounded by “You Make Loving Fun” on one side and “Go Your Own Way” on the other, as we lead off to the encore. If that doesn’t have you salivating, this night is not for you.
Panic! At The Disco At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, Match 2nd – It isn’t presence, no, it is youthfully ingratiating and in the end he pulls it off, nobody claimed he was phoning it in, the man gave it everything he had and didn’t disappoint an adoring audience.
Luke Bryan, Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, March 1st – The songs aren’t good enough (the voice is), the words aren’t good enough. I get it. But he was still pretty good.
Ed Sheeran, Barclay Center, Friday, September 29th – He has been travelling the world since March performing this set, giving us a wink and a hug then, like a latter day Chuck Berry or Howard Hill, packing away his guitar and grabbing a bus to his next gig
TIDAL X Brooklyn 2017 At Barclay Center, Tuesday, October 17th – it was liked being dipped feet first into live hip hop, dozens of artists you want to see and got to see, all in one night. If it wasn’t so good, and the sound was exceptional, it would be a bit like homework. But it was swiftly paced, passionately conceived and for a great cause. As MC for the evening, a pretty legendary herself Angie Martinez, noted, Tidal had already sent 500 tons of supplies to the island.
The First Ladies Of Disco At BB Kings, Wednesday, July 19th – Watching the three women last night was a real honor and a real remembrance of that disco spirit of hedonism, of the pursuit of happiness despite it all
Depeche Mode At Madison Square Garden, Saturday, September 9th – it was a good performance that gave the audience what they wanted
The Pointer Sisters At BB Kings, Saturday, December 30th – The Pointer Sisters kept to the hits, of which there were plenty. “Neutron Dance” caught the groove and rattled it and a little earlier Bruce Springsteen’s soul groove track “Fire” (I’d been gagging to hear it live despite Helen Bach’s astounding dislike for the song) didn’t disappoint. Their Belgium hit version of “Sisters Doing It For Themselves” was one of the few times sexual desire wasn’t the theme, and “I’m So Excited”and “Jump (For My Love)” were given strong workouts.
Springsteen On Broadway At The Walter Kerr Pre-Opening Review, Saturday, October 7th – Seeped in money and contradiction and performing a Broadway production that doesn’t come close to equalling his greatest concerts, for an audience that can afford it because it costs a month’s rent for the majority of Americans, Bruce doesn’t flinch in the face of our doubts. Bruce claims he did it all for us, to share his stories of the USA with us so that we can add our stories to his
Katy Perry’s “Witness” Tour At Madison Square Garden, Friday, October 6th – Katy is what you’d get if you mixed Estella with Miss Havisham, she’s a charming, barely contained arrogance holding her hidden sadness close to her breast, it seems to emerge in flits and starts
Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull – Madison Square Garden – Friday, June 30th – Enrique was a revelation, a fast and furious performance and Pitbull wasn’t a revelation at all but what price “Hotel Room Service,” right?
Chic At Madison Square Garden, Monday, August 7th, 2017 – Chic deserve to be better, you could imagine Chic as an ultimate disco funk jam band and what they are is a nostalgia driven band with a great set of songs to play. They look the part but there is a step missing. They are useful but they don’t have enough value.
Hooligan Chase At The Studio At Webster Hall, Wednesday, June 26th – If the structure is sipping Percodan and dropping Xanax and acting out and being together with, very punk, no huge difference between fan and famous, why even worry what constitutes a performance? At the very least, it is more fun than Travis Scott will ever be
Kendrick Lamar At Barclay Center, Thursday, July 20th – I liked Damn, a lot but not that much, I liked Damn the show a lot but not that much. Kanye or Jay-Z or Drake, or Joey Bada$$ or Ghostface Killah woulda blown Kendrick off stage. He is very good but he isn’t that good
Ringo Starr And His All Starrs At Beacon Theatre, Wednesday, November 15th – Last night we suffered through a pleasantly silly but uninspired Todd Rundgren instead of hearing “Goodnight Vienna,” “I’m The Greatest,” “Octopussy’s Garden,” “No No Song”. There simply isn’t enough of the great man.
Brian Wilson At Radio City Music Hall, Saturday, September 23rd – Brian’s love for girls and women wasn’t simply chasing skirts but a search for the completion he never found as a boy: introverted, sad, troubled, strange, and musical beyond musical, the abused boy became one of our greatest composers and Pet Sounds expresses why, clearly. There were other ways for us to become men, there are better ways for us to be men.
The Wonder Years At Le Poisson Rouge, Matinee, Sunday, October 8th – As for The Wonder Years, as a nonfan, I think if they took a collective shave and stopped going all in, I might be convinced to be a some fan instead.
Classic East: The Eagles, Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Citi Field, Saturday, July 29th – better than I thought it would be, and Vince was everything I hoped, and, hey, as Billboard noted, over 40 hits, muddy sound or otherwise. I’ll catch The Eagles again when they play MSG in a couple of years, with or without Vince.
Future, Migos, And Tory Lanez, At Barclay Center, Friday, May 19th, 2017 – No, they didn’t invent trap but they perfected it and made it matter, they are monster hook merchants and they are a blend of voices than unlike the de rigeur everybody shout at the same time of rap since the beginning of time, sounds Dolly-Emmylee-Linda integrated voices and sounds
Phoebe Nir At The Bitter End, Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 – It was a dynamic performance, a fast paced, always thrilling dash through a handful of songs that added Broadway to pop, not a million miles away from the band fun., not a million miles away from Madonna, with a Dirty Mind like dirty mind, and an addition by addition way around a song
Charlie Wilson At Barclay Center, Wednesday, Match 29th – Old school r&b from the still terrific singer with two world class opening act -none of whom mind banging the Bible if the moment calls for it.
Art Garfunkel At City Winery, Saturday, April 22nd – That voice is still a gift from god, however, the second time round a little less appreciated.
Craig Finn At City Winery, Tuesday, April 4th, – The new album is solid, the set was solid.
Andre Cymone, True Groove Allstars, And Kellindo Parker At Bowery Electric, Friday, August 4th -Tomas Doncker put together the program at Bowery Electric and sure earned his paycheck last night, with two acts of musical miscegenation broken up with a Clash mutated into Funkadelic. In other words, an evening of black guitar rock and roll like we don’t get anymore.
Diana Krall – Beacon Theatre – Wednesday, June 21st – The great American songbook as ice cool blonde bombshell. Where’s Hitchcock when you need him.
Barbra Streisand At Barclay Center, Saturday, May 6th, 2017 – Streisand, as a singer, as an actress, as a certain exemplified person, as a vision of a woman , is hard to deny too much. It feels like starting a quarrel, she is too good, her voice too defining, her personality, her vision, her attitude, a doorway into American pop and American feminism
The xx, Forest Hills Stadium, Saturday, May 20th, 2017 – the xx barely squeezed out 90 minutes and while what we got was quite alright, that’s all I felt about it. For such a good band, they’re a little ordinary
Jennifer Lopez: All I Have at the Axis at Planet Hollywood, Friday, February 17th – It is all OK as Vegas show, iffy as art.
Bruno Mars 24 Karat Tour At Madison Square, Saturday, September 23rd – Bruno’s problem isn’t his song, it’s his entire lack of authenticity
Phish At Madison Square Garden, Friday, July 21st – It was clever and fun, turning events eventful and filling the room with love and munchies. As for the music, the first set on Friday was the best I’ve ever seen them, a mix of strong groove and country flairish jam like. But I’m not a fan, and I feel about their extended jams the way I feel about DJ’s dropping the bass: it’s an easy ovation
U2 – MetLife – Wednesday, July 1st, 2017 – The first fifty minutes were ace and the rest wasn’t.
Alison Krauss And David Gray, Radio City Music Hall, Tuesday, September 19th – Alison really needs more personality to her performance.
Billy Joel At Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, February 22nd – Not as good without the foundation glue of Christmas.
David Cassidy At BB Kings, Saturday, March 4th – And by the end of the evening, a beatific “I Woke Up In Love This Morning” followed sharply by “I Think I Love You,” he was rewarded with the adulation he once had. Could it end any other way?
Clive Davis “The Soundtrack Of Our Lives” Premiere AT Radio City Music Hall, Wednesday, April 19th – This is Davis, nothing succeeds like success and Davis’ career speaks for itself, but he isn’t what the movie claims he is.
Green Day At Barclay Center, Wednesday, March 15th – He is like Bruce Springsteen if Bruce was an American idiot, he is too thin skinned, too temperamental, he misses his dad too much, and he knows that as the youngest of six he has to fight for your attention. He got it last night but why bother?
Bon Jovi At Madison Square Garden, Saturday, April 15th- it was certainly a huge improvement and proved Jon learns from his mistakes… just not musically
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Prudential Center – Friday, June 16th – Petty goes through the motions one more time, but well, he goes through them well.
The Weeknd – Prudential Center – Sunday, June 11th – The Weeknd felt like a manufactured hero for the masses, on drugs.
Ariana Grande At Madison Square Garden, Friday, February 24th – For the three girls with me, taking pictures and videos, texting their friends, singing on the top of their lungs and screaming just as loud, it was all that and more: it was a pop dream come to life.
Nick Cave – Beacon Theatre – Tuesday, June 13th – The second coming of Christ as a reach out and touch someone sexdream
Hillsong United – Sunday, June 18th – The songs are awful and the spirit is willing, plus as overwrought Messianic nitwits go, Nick Cave is worse.
Kings Of Leon At Madison Square Garden, Friday, January 20th – I was very close to the stage and I maybe, maybe not, saw Nathan crack a smile… I’m not promising but maybe. So maybe they need to work from a certain level of intensity that doesn’t allow for a good time being, in fact, a good time. Or, one more, maybe they are bullies.
Billy Joel At Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, December 20th – the show was missing something
Queens Of The Stone Age At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, October 24th – At MSG it is dwarfed by the environment. QOTSA are in the business of the big moment but they don’t have the feel for it. Roger Arnold claimed Josh Hommes is the Dave Grohl of rock, and he is right, but Grohl is more attuned to the anthem then Josh is
Guns N Roses At Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, October 11th – It is time for Axl to fire Slash again, I preferred his band in 2005, Buckethead is much more fun, to this one. Slim down the set to two hours of hits, then go out for a five day bender. I have never seen a band fuck themselves over like this. A huge mistake
The Dead And Company – Citi Field – The first three songs were the worst opening of the year and they never came close to recovering.
The Beach Boys At the Beacon Theatre, Thursday, August 17th – Mike owns the name and has every right to turn a buck, and he gave a long and deep performance, including a brace of songs from the exceptional Wild Honey album, and it is really difficult to go too far off the deep end with these songs. He doesn’t scrimp on the hits, he insures the audience get what they want. But it just isn’t here, it has too much baggage, the Wilson brothers –all three, are missed, it has plenty of high spirits but no depth.
Lady Gaga At Citi Field, Monday, August 28th – Stuff like “Poker Face” and “Telephone” were so good, the stage alive with dancers and colors, movement and sound and so what? The show was one long unforced error. She can take a ride on this disco stick.
My Morning Jacket And Gary Clark Jr At Forest Hills Stadium, Saturday, July 15th – It’s like getting stuck in Woodstock on your way to Vegas, all pastoral quiet jams and head scratching meandering, this is jam as acoustic innocent blandouts, a bass and two guitar attack with keyboards to the side and a drummer they don’t use as well as they might, it was a steadily quiet evening with, in the 45 minutes I lasted, only “I’m Amazed” getting a rousing reception.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “The Getaway Tour” At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, February 15th – I mean, if they were different people playing different songs I would have quite enjoyed it.
The Revolution At BB Kings, Friday, April 28th – The moral to this abomination isn’t very helpful: never ever die.
Gucci Mane At Billboard Hot 100 Festival, Jones Beach, August 19th – He was worse than Future and Travis Scott combined. I am shocked at this disgraceful performance. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.
Marilyn Manson, Hammerstein Ballroom, Saturday, September 30th – he was climbing a ladder between a prop featuring two huge guns, when he lost his footing, falling to the ground and toppling the guns upon him during “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”, the tenth song and 55 minutes into the concert. The lights went down and fifteen minutes later we were advised that the concert was over and told to leave the premises due to injury.
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – October 1972 (Volume 4, Number 5)
We leap ahead almost a year
A flatout triumph from a major performer
New Wave pop bliss out
I WISH I HADN’T GONE
a time-capsule type of roster
Creem -America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – November 1971 (Volume 3, Number 6)
“Sure, we don’t pay much but then who else do ya know who’ll publish you?”
in the immortal words of Jason Isbell to me at Gov Ball a coupla years ago: “let’s do this…”
one of the great top tens of the 2020
old school Puerto Rican underground sounds
a masterful pop about loving a drug addict