Best Concerts of 2013
The time has come for me to reflect on the 128 concerts I attended in 2013 and determine the top ten. It was an extremely difficult task this year because I saw so many excellent shows.
I laid one ground rule for myself. I did not include sets at festivals for one main reason – there is generally a lot more energy at a festival than at a ‘regular’ concert and the musicians feed off that energy which produces a better show. Also, at festivals musicians from other bands tend to sit in with the act on stage so one is not always seeing the band as they typically perform. In no particular order, other than the number one show which was the best show of the year and one of the very best shows I’ve seen in my life, here is my top ten for 2013.
1. Mike Stern and Eric Johnson at Regattabar. Mike and Eric are guitar genuises who do not generally perform together. Mike is a jazz guitarist and Eric play primarily blues. We saw both shows that night and almost went back the following night for one of the sets. They traded leads and styles and complemented each other perfectly. At one point, Mike stood back as Eric played; he kept shaking his head and saying he couldn’t believe how amazing Eric was. It was an incredible performance to experience.
2. Pink Martini at Boston Opera House. I have been following Pink Martini since their inception but had never seen them perform. This show was so much fun! Part of the energy came from China Forbes performing in front of her home town crowd, I’m sure. I have a feeling, though, that they play their hearts out at every show they do. They sing in a myriad of languages, and at this show brought people who spoke those languages on stage to perform the songs with them. French, Polish, Greek, Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese were a few of those languages.
3. The Mavericks at The Royale. The show knocked off my socks! I had no idea what to expect since I’d never seen them perform and I wasn’t terribly familiar with their music. The venue was only about half full, which surprised me because other shows on this tour sold out. I thought there was not a weak link in the band, and Raul Malo’s voice is just spectacular (and let’s not forget sexy). They played a lot of songs from their current release but also dug deep into their catalog.
4. Great Big Sea at The Narrows Center for the Arts. Admittedly this is one my favorite bands to see live. In the spring, I heard the now substantiated rumor that the band would be going on an indefinite hiatus at the end of 2013, so I made it a point to see them as many times as I could (which turned out to be five). This was the best show of theirs I saw this year. I think part of it was the intimacy of the venue (280 people) and part of it was Alan Doyle sitting down at my table and talking with me for a few minutes. The band’s energy was palpable, and they ended up doing one very long set rather than two shorter sets. They added to the set list and just gave us an incredible show. I’m looking forward to seeing what the boys, individually and together, do in 2014 and beyond.
5. New Orleans Suspects at Johnny D’s. I love most music from New Orleans and the Suspects are no exception. Their brand of funk is so uplifting, it’s hard not to have a great time at one of their shows. The band has a great pedigree – they are former members of The Radiators, James Brown, Neville Brothers, Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
6. Boz Scaggs at Lowell Summer Music Series. I wanted to see Boz for years, and finally did. His voice is still fabulous (unlike some other musicians of the same era) and his songs are great. He was touring in support of his recent album, but he played songs from throughout his career. He was clearly enjoying himself – he had great rapport with the audience who appreciated everything he performed. I’m thinking I need to see him again soon!
7. Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau at Berklee Performance Center. This was a cross-genre show, combining the bluegrass of Chris’s mandolin and the jazz of Brad’s piano. Their styles melded extremely well. They made me feel as if I were sitting in their living room listening to them practice – except they sounded so much better than just ‘practicing.’ This was the ideal venue for them.
8. Preservation Hall Jazz Band at The Sinclair. I’ve seen Preservation Hall perform a number of times over the past few years, at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to the Newport Folk Festival. This show was the best! I think part of it was that the audience was showing them so much love, but I think it was also due to their performing songs from their first album of completely original music. The versions of ‘St. James’s Infirmary Blues’ was mind-blowing!
9. Bombino at The Sinclair. I’ve seen Bombino perform a few times, but at this show there was an energy that wasn’t as evident at previous shows. My guess is that his music is becoming more familiar to Americans so his audiences are more enthusiastic now. His music as well as his story deserve to be heard. I will go see him perform any time he’s in town.
10. Prince and Janelle Monae at Mohegan Sun Arena. WOW! What a concert! The music didn’t stop (once it started almost an hour late) – first up was Janelle Monae who performed a very long set for an opening act. She was followed by the rapper Doug E. Fresh, who entertained us while the stage was being set up for Prince. Prince did an amazing set of what he called ‘old school’ although he did perform some newer songs. There were three encores, the last of which was just Prince and his base band rocking out after the lights had come up and much of the crowd had left the arena.
11. Tied for this spot are: Tony Bennett at the Boston Opera House, Sam Bush and Del McCoury at Stockbridge Theatre, Habib Koite and Eric Bibb at the Somerville Theatre, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell at Lowell Summer Music Series, Carolina Chocolate Drops and David Wax Museum at House of Blues, Son Volt at Paradise Rock Club, A Quartet of Bass Players (Victor Wooten, Victor Bailey, Steve Bailey, and John Patitucci) at Berklee Performance Center, Ian Anderson at the Wang Theatre, Red Baraat at The Sinclair, Delbert McClinton at Bull Run, Joe Ely at Bull Run, The Lone Bellow at Paradise Rock Club, Buddy Guy and Quinn Sullivan at Lowell Summer Music Series, Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Lowell Summer Music Series, The Rides at The Wilbur Theatre, Taj Mahal with Vusi Mahlasela and Fredericks Brown at Mahaiwe Theatre, and My Morning Jacket at the Agganis Arena.
Posted on January 1, 2014, in concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged Bombino, Boz Scaggs, Brad Mehldau, Chris Thile, concert review, Eric Johnson, Great Big Sea, Janelle Monáe, Mike Stern, music, New Orleans Suspects, Pink Martini, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Prince, The Mavericks. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.