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The Best Of 2015: Concerts Through November 30th, 2015

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D’Angelo – February 7th – The Apollo – Friday, February 12th, 2012, I witnessed Aretha Franklin honor her recently deceased Goddaughter whitney Houston at radio City Music Hall, part pop manifesto, part revival meeting, the queen of soul sublimated her pain in song and worship. It was the best show I’ve seen this century. And D’Angelo at the Apollo was the second best show I’ve seen this century.

Madonna – Madison Square Garden, September 16th – “I’m feeling very nostalgic”, Madonna claimed about her return to MSG 30 years after her first performance here. But she shouldn’t be. Madonna didn’t have the rebel heart for it then, she hadn’t learnt how hard she could cry, how alone she could be. She didn’t appreciate human frailty the way she did last night

Azealia Banks – May 11th – Irving Plaza – This is it folks, in the battle of the women rappers (not to mention men rappers) we have a winner. Banks does everything she said she would, dances, raps, boogies down, takes us on. Pump-parrrrump-pa-rrum-pump

Angel Haze – November 23rd – SOBs –  From an early rave to “On Fire”, to a gigantic singalong to “The Wolves” to an energizer bunny jump along “Babe Ruthless” and to a penultimate “New York” followed by encore (Sia featured on the record) “Battle Cry”, this was through the roof hip hop. In a year where I’ve seen Kendrick, Future, Vince Staples, Tyler The Creator and more fail to perform their recorded work on stage, Angel sure did. Angel made the audience her posse and she used them to push herself harder and yet never coming close to chaos, it was controlled happiness.

Sufjan Stevens – Beacon Theatre – April 11th – With the album of the year under Sufjan’s belt, here he was performing it live on stage and you could have heard a pin drop, a magnificent performance of (mostly) an album that changes what the term “confessional” means.

James Taylor – Forest Hills Stadium – August 5th – A beautiful evening with beautiful songs by a man at the peak of his powers at 67 years of age. Given all the ways James Taylor’s life might have gone, his brother Alex, sweet baby James pop, died of a drug overdose decades ago, that James could have lived through it all and reached this place better than ever? It is a testament to the possibility that life may redeem you, if you’re lucky… not a bad description of James Taylor’s songs, either.

Art Garfunkel – October 3rd – Carnegie Hall – Like a river it will flow… song to song, like those Rabbis over 60 years ago in tears and in prayer as this blonde haired Jewish boy made the ancient melodies come alive. It is still a gift from God.

Lee Ann Womack – City Winery – April 20th – 1990s real country singer battles a terrible cold for 75 minutes and is extra concentrated with the effort it took.

Young Fathers – Central Park SummerStage – July 25th – They were sweating from the heat and seemed disappointed in the size of the audience, and daylight doesn’t appear to three piece rap and alt’s natural habitat: and they were still magnificent. That version of “Shame”? That was worth it.

Great Voices In Harlem, The Gloster Project – MIST Harlem – Sunday, March 9th, 2015 – Any afternoon, any time at all, you get to listen to such a great collection of musicians, especially in such an intimate space, is a great afternoon. Or evening. And in aid of such a wonderful project -did I mention Dr. Randy Weston was there?

Bjork – City Center – Saturday, March 28th, 2015 – If you have heard and loved Vulnicura as much as I do (I consider it her best album since Post), you must see this performance. It completes the journey to a bright future. It is magic realism, where through art one is made whole. A masterpiece of a performance.

Noel Gallagher – Governors Ball – June 7th – Live is where he comes into his own as a no nonsense UK rocker who has a better feel for harmolodics then you might imagine, everything here is about arranging a sound where nothing sticks out and nothing goes under, just like Be Here Now taught us, it is like a mountain that is all peak.

Manic Street Preachers – Webster Hall – April 23rd – The UKs best rock band performs their beloved and respected and very strange The Holy Bible. Richie didn’t show. How could he. It got better with the last seven songs

Wussy – January 17th – Studio At Webster Hall – I thought these indie rockers from Cincinatti were great at the time and I thought they were greater when I thought back on it. Essentially, they are a midwestern Shellshag who didn’t make it through the long run as a couple have lived to explain the pitfalls and disasters of romantic love and this night played em down to the ground. “You guys are killer,” Lisa walker claimed. So is she.

The Gotobeds – Cake Shop – May 30th – Agitprop Sub Pop signees crack fun, rock hard.

Meek Mill – Barclay Center – A 50 minute mini concert with Meek filling the stage with his posse and rapping clear cut classics like “All Eyes On You” (Nicki Minaj waved to us from the sidelines) and “R.I.C.O” -despite Drake bouncing him earlier this year. PS Chris Brown should have been there. Mill shouted out the late lamented Lil Snupe, invited A$AP Ferg on stage, and then Rick Ross in his first appearance since his second heart attack, and finally DJ Khaled in terrific form. I love the latest album by the way and the Drake feud is forgotten and forgiven

Jack White – Madison Square Garden – January 30th – white is so very weird he makes me sound weird when I write about him, he brings out the bipolar hate the someone but love the sound and watch white hit it and hit it and hit it with sterling silver guitar car crashed: it is like ramming a Lamborghini into an electric fence and what can be wrong with that?

The Who – Barclay Center – May 26th – Roger in better voice, Pete in better health, better setlist and better set than 2013.

Graham Parker And The Rumour – Highline Ballroom – June 13th – In a spirited and energetic 90 minutes with Graham dancing and jiving, and giving the spotlight to Martin for a sliver of a solo and Schwartz for a coupla bars before stealing it back again, a cranked up Hammond Organ by Bob Andrews all over the damn place, and a standard of song selection that has you spoiling for a favorite

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks – Pier 84 – July 11th – I was a complete agnostic till I caught em at this 4Knots gig now deal me in, better than the reunion Pavement from a coupla years ago and Malkmus can, you know, play guitar.

Bunji Garlin – Summerstage – June 27th – So who is Bunji? From his bio: ” Born Ian Alvarez, the Trinidadian ragga soca star Bunji Garlin is known for blending of soca with dancehall. Hailed recently by Rolling Stone as “America’s first soca star,” Garlin has clearly taken his native country’s genre to new heights.” Plus, he released his eleven album last year and is a full on rock and roll star on stage, singing water soaked Soca to a very impressed audience.

Taylor Swift – Metlife – July 10th – I wish I could whisper in her ear and tell her to rethink her concert policy. I would love to hear her stop sodding around and play 150 minutes straight. This was the second worst time I’ve ever seen taylor, and she still made it to my best of the year list.

AC/DC – Metlife – August 27th – With the exception of “You Shook Me All Night Long”, they don’t have a memorable tune to their name and all their lyrics are ephemera, the audience chant hooks but the hooks have no real meaning, so that frees the set up from expectation. Sure “Hells Bells”, “Back In Black” and a coupla others get an especially loud cheer, but really the set just goes from one great song to another to another

Earl Sweatshirt – Best Buy – August 22nd – The evening could have done with Tyler for sure,but Earl was still a lesson in dark minimalism, come in if you want. With one of the best albums of the year, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, already here, this was a good not great set and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

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