TOP DAWG ENTERTAINMENT: THE CHAMPIONSHIP TOUR FT. KENDRICK LAMAR AND SZA At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, March 29th – The set was a fun, joyous homecoming for the Maplewood, New Jersey native. SZA dealt with her vocal problems early, and the second on the bill to Kendrick Lamar singer couldn’t find a way to not perform: this was a triumph for SZA some six years after she started.
John Prine At Radio City Music Hall, Friday, April 13th – Not quite a benediction and we didn’t get an encore, but I forgive him because the forgiveness tree begins with the best show of the year.
Janelle Monae at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, July 18th – if Janelle didn’t fashion the best show of the year any weakness was one of a distilled perception, meaning it was still fucking awesome. To quote the superstar of tomorrow: We don’t need another ruler, we don’t need another fool. I am not the American nightmare, I am the American cool…. America has never been cooler.
Radiohead At Madison Square Garden, Friday, July 13th – Radiohead came on stage to a heroes welcome at an excellently early 835pm and performed two hours plus of extreme sound modulars breaking into rhythm with a two drummer attack (one was Phil Selway of course) and though I found the breaks between songs a little too long at first, by a third of the way through the set everything was in the right place
Robert Plant And The Shape Shifters At the Beacon Theatre, Wednesday, Friday, February 14th – When compared to his closest contemporaries, say David Gilmore, he has managed to be the biggest low key figure in rock, a classicist scoping the width and breadth of sound but playing theatres, with a small strong band, and very little stage effects, allowing his voice to lead the way, as he moves and grooves with vigor.
Steve Earle And Sarah Jarosz At City Winery, Tuesday, January 16th – The first fifteen minutes last night was Earle redux, you sat with your mouth agape. Just Earle, his guitar, a harp, and a hacking cough from a cold, and songs that flowed with effortless skill and power. At first I thought he was rushing them, a little Ramones-y, but it was much more a matter of getting to the point, making his point, and moving on. A seamless immersion in Earle country folk god.
The Mercy Suite: The Songs Of Tomas Doncker And Yusef Komunyakaa At La Mama, Tuesday, January 30th – This is what Tomas called treats
Jackson Browne At the Beacon Theatre, Friday, May 18th – for 150 minutes Jackson gave us an etched picture of loss through the years as timelessness, except better played, of what it might mean to love a woman. And the audience, and I, lapped it up. Like most of his audience, I am stuck in the 1970s (he fell to earth on 1980’s Hold On) and despite that, just about every single song was excellent
Harry Styles At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, June 21st – I appreciated Harry’s fast paced, well performed set, skillfully adapting himself to his future and treating everybody around him, even his roadies, with the utmost respect attitude.
Day One Governors Ball, Friday, June 1st, 2018 -“Who’s fucked up? Who’s on drugs,” he asked before his best song ever, “Better Now”. Post is a huge star right now and his terrific beers and bongs went platinum and for good reason, he has handfuls of bangerz and he bangs them hard
Rod Stewart And Cyndi Lauper At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, August 7th – Sure, Sir Rod is running on fumes, and he is very careful to preserve his voice, but at 73 years of age, Stewart was absolutely terrific, a crowd pleaser to the nth degree, and a legend… for two albums, of course, but also a legendary performer on stage, Sinatra would get it.
Justin Timberlake’s “Man Of The Woods” Tour At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, March 22nd – Then a funny thing happened on the way to the Bono-ing, Timberlake got his mojo back on this first rate, big time, tour. A spectacular career spanning (no NSYNC but otherwise) masterpiece of staging and song and dance
Sam Huber At The Bitter End, Monday, April 16th – Addicted to the funk Sam is all sexual aggression and art dance moves, with a new album on the horizon and a tour to complement it, he has the cockiness of a man who knows he has brought his version of funk, a Euroglimmer black sound that on a song like “Measure For Measure” brushes next to jazz before settling in everywhere he wants to be. Then he took us there.
Birkin/Gainsbourg: The Symphonique With Jane Birkin And Wordless Music Orchestra At Carnegie Hall, Thursday, February 1st – It’s all a little bit of an over reach, but since it is Birkin’s history to overreach towards, and since Birkin is a sublime interpreter of the self-reflected world of songs like “Ballade De Johnny Jane” and “Baby Alone In Babylone” it would be the essence of sophistication to whinge about it
Lana Del Rey At the Prudential Center, Friday, January 19th – The Hitchcock blonde after therapy that works but not all the way.
Denny Laine At BB Kings, Tuesday, January 9th – Throughout the evening, despite his scruffed up ageism, Denny was charismatic with an easy going on top of it all; you can see why he has managed such a long career.
Governors Ball Day 2, Saturday, June 2nd – Halsey was a talkative, energetic smart performer with just a drummer and a dancer on the somewhat minimal stage, and with a cameraman who kept on missing her for some reason, there was a real connection between her and her audience, so much so that she jumped off stage and slapped hands and high fived
Taylor Swift’s “Reputation Tour” At MetLife Stadium, Friday, July 20th – If romance and love is the sine qua non, it is tempered through self-realization and self-worth but the further Swift moves from her roots, the harder it is to sympathize with her.
Aubrey And The Three Migos Tour At Madison Square Garden, Friday, August 24th – Yeah, it wasn’t his best tour to date, yeah, it was a little slack, especially during a slow segment which had Drake admonishing the audience for sitting (hey, I thought we were the best). But really, it was a hella fun
Day 3: Governors Ball, Sunday, June 3rd – I stayed to the end of Lil Uzi and I knew it was gonna fuck up sitelines for Eminem but hey…
K.D. Lang At The Beacon Theatre, Monday, March 28th – She is a very pleasant singer, I don’t mean her voice, I mean her attitude, the way she breaks into dance mid song, the way she brings the songs to life with a deeply reactive “The Mind Of Love,” with its “Can your heart conceal what the mind of love reveals” sorrow.
Chris Brown’s Heartbreak on a Full Moon Tour At Barclay’s Center, Monday, July 17th – Chris reminded us what he was all about and it isn’t his hybrid hip hop, it is about the way he moves
Jeff Lynne’s ELO At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, August 21st – the performance were mostly very precise incarnations of ELO’s recorded version, the sound was enrichening and the arrangements gorgeous, in “Rockaria” the aria was well sung, in the Travelling Wilbury’s song, the Roy Orbison vocal perfect, and in the more raucous moments, the Marvin Gaye inspired in the verses “Showdown,” they broke a sweat without breaking a sweat.
Lorde At Barclay Center, Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 – Seeing the two close friends mid stage, sitting cross legged while Jack strummed his guitar was simultaneously inside baseball arrogant and sweetly disarming. They acted like the sort of guys who, if you meet at a party look right through you and you can’t even say mean girls rude, you just don’t exist.
Tyler The Creator At The Theatre At Madison Square Garden – Saturday, February 24th – the concentrated power and glory of his rapping and his backing, Tyler isn’t the scatalagocial, daddy issues, homophobic mess he once was
Jools Holland “Piano, Vocals and Drum Frenzy”at the Blue Note, February 3rd – he was as charming as you could imagine, self-deprecating, witty, and so easy going you fell into his boogie woogie groove with ease
Bad Bunny At United Palace, Thursday, March 1st – It was the first night of Bad Bunny’s “La Nuevo Religion” tour, already headlining and not even an album out yet. Perhaps the jitters got to him a little, more likely he can’t quite read his audience yet
Jessi Mason At Groove, Friday, January 5th – During an impeccable hour long performance at Groove in the Village last night, Jessi Mason proved the power of the version: she covered James Brown, Dusty Springfield, Bruce Springsteen, and Radiohead, and if you include her original song “Blue,” which doubles as a Joni Mitchell tribute, the musically distilled and protean young singer songwriter placed her own shimmering jewels on stage
Elvis Costello and The Imposters Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY Friday March tth – My guess is that the Costello not in Vegas concert we got, just about 150 minutes, was a rejigger from what was not to be. An all business, full on head rush for the first set mostly featuring ol’ little hands of concrete on lead guitar and sounding like a no new york rescue case performing hard shards of white lighting runs to stuff you’d expect
ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER in Conversation With GLENN CLOSE, Monday, March 5th – Baron Lloyd-Webber, took us on a hop skip and a jump through his backstory. Andrew discusses his father William Lloyd Webber, a composer and organist, telling Andrew “If you ever write a melody half as good as as Richard Rodger’s “Some Enchanted Evening” I’ll tell you,” and never telling him.
Brett Eldredge’s “The Long Way” Tour At The Hammerstein Ballroom, Saturday, May 5th – With great songs, a fine singer, and an adoring audience, Brett shoulda killed it and yet he didn’t. The difference between Brett and, say, Luke Bryan, isn’t that Brett has better material (material he co-writes) or a better voice, but that Luke, for all his friendliness, comes across like a rock star and Brett comes across like an opening act, even when bringing his dog on stage and having the audience serenade the woof with “You Are My Sunshine”,” he can’t quite balance his show right.
Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, And Dwight Yoakam, At the Beacon Theatre, Wednesday, June 13th – Dwight can play a good guitar and has a nifty two step, he has an ease about him that reminds me a little of a George Strait, and I sincerely regret not staying till the end of the night. So why the grade? It needed to start earlier and end earlier, the lead act doesn’t need to be hitting the stage at 1030 in the evening.
Imagine Dragon’s “Evolve” Tour At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, June 19th = The current Evolve is a huge hit for them, and you can hear well as they deftly add personality to endemic generic fluff and insult no one as they perform these less than good songs.
Steve Earle At City Winery, Monday, February 19th – The problem with the nearly 105 minute set is that Earle seemed a little sad and it is off putting. Maybe it’s his singing, a melodic croak that seems wrapped in a battleground against all the outside forces -his singing is almost melancholic, almost elemental. Earle is at his best not on “Jerusalem,” and not when digging into his belief in God, but on the heart aching “Goodbye”.
Red Bull Presents A Conversation With Robyn, Moderated By Kindness, At The Museum Of Modern Art, MoHot Country With Carrie Underwood, Dan + Shay, And Filmore, At Pier 17, July 4thnday, May 21st – A masterclass in pop song construction circa 2018
Hot Country With Carrie Underwood, Dan + Shay, And Filmore, At Pier 17, July 4th – if country duo Dan + Shay had attempted a “USA, USA” chant at the Prudential instead of the brand new rooftop venue at Pier 17, they might have managed a long chant back instead of the halfhearted ho hum response they got
Sam Smith At Madison Square Garden, Saturday, June 30th – For 90 minutes I was not sold, even as Helen Bach, who had never seen him before, thought he had command of the stage and the entire 100s at MSG stood from start to finish.
Arctic Monkeys at Forest Hills Stadium, Tuesday, July 24th – I’m not a fan, though the audience are, and the catalog is a touch better than I had realized… but the lack of close circuit TV was a killer.
Stephen Schwartz’s 70th Birthday Concert At Hudson Theatre, Monday, April 24th – many of Broadway’s biggest stars came out to honor Schwartz in trickly unctuous blather
“1964”… The Tribute Featuring Robert Miller and the Orchestra, At Carnegie Hall, Saturday, February 17th – While Helen found their visual naffness a problem, I didn’t care, it was the complete inability to sing these songs well enough that I couldn’t get over
Beck At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, July 19th – the material isn’t where he needs it to be and while the Arena didn’t dwarf him, it sure made us feel far away.
Roger Daltrey Presents The Who’s “Tommy” With The New York Pops, At Forest Hill Stadium, Sunday, June 17th – Look, we won’t have the likes of Daltrey or Pete Townshend around forever, and we are happy to pay our respects, but if money is not a problem, Daltrey should close ranks, call Wilko, and play theatres.
Bananarama at the Playstation Theatre, Saturday – February 24th – The girls are not back, this was their first NYC concert ever, and it was syb Spice Girls, if not, indeed, sub Little Mix
Stew And The Negro Problem At Lincoln Center’s “American Songbook,” Wednesday, February 7th – Mark Stewart (aka Stew) has that rare ability to be simultaneously unctuous and obnoxious, the motor mouthed black rocker’s public fellatio of American Songbook and Spike Lee, sitting front and center , was only slightly less offensive than his cool breeze self-regard
The Smashing Pumpkins At Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, August 1st – With James and Jimmy Chamberlin back for a partial reunion, Billy played songs from his golden age, but they were long, tedious, pompous. How can someone with such a round head but such a fathead?
Johnny Marr At Gramercy Theater Thursday May 31st – Sure he can (could?) compose a song and sure he is one of the greatest guitarist of his generation, but he is no front man.
U2’s “Experience And Innocence” Tour At Madison Square Garden, Monday, June 25th – These guys are beyond out of touch and the only way they can help the world, the only way we want them to, is by touring behind their greatest hits. Instead they feel compelled to prove their relevance via bad albums and bad tours
Panorama Day One At Randall’s Island, Friday, July 28th – An unmitigated disaster closed at 420pm due to inclement weather. They did provide refunds so there is that.
distinct and wondrous without being obvious or obnoxious
except for the title track the songs are on vacation
simultaneously self-effacing and egomaniacs
essentially a disco remix of “Rocket Man” featuring one of the the UK’s biggest stars…
“I literally really need you to jump up and down”
Friday night might kill us but Thursday evening is a blast
it just isn’t the triumph she needed after six years
an impressive sonic ride.
a high-spirited Post Pandemic anthem