My Top Ten Shows of 2015!
I saw 224 shows in 2015. Yes, I know, that sounds like an insane number considering I have a day job that is completely unrelated to music. How would I choose my top ten, with another fifteen as runners-up? All the shows except one were at least very good, and I thought that narrowing the list would not be easy.
It turned out not to be difficult at all. The top ten (or eleven as you will read below) were clear to me, as were the runners-up.
I do not include sets from music festivals in my ‘best of’ list; there is an energy at festivals that causes many of those sets to be incredible and better than a ‘regular’ concert. Some of the sets I heard last year were amazing; they included Traveller (Robert Ellis, Jonny Fritz, Cory Chisel) at Newport Folk Festival; The Ballroom Thieves at Newport and Freshgrass Festival; Langhorn Slim at Newport and Green River Festival; I’m With Her (Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, Aoife O’Donovan) at Freshgrass; Willie Watson at Freshgrass; and Calexico at Newport.
These are the shows that made my top ten, in no particular order after the first three:
- Dave Rawlings Machine on November 16th (The Wilbur) – It is not easy to put into words how amazing this show was. The quality of the music, the energy in the room, the extraordinary talent of all five musicians on stage, all contributed to making this my number one show of the year.
- The Mavericks on February 19th (The Wilbur) – This was my fourth time seeing this band, and it was the best. This was the first show of the tour promoting their then-new album, Mono, and the energy at The Wilbur was incredible. I was exhausted after this show, but in the best possible way!
- Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett on May 28th (Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord, NH) – I adore both these musicians, and putting them together for a duo acoustic show was a brilliant idea. I felt as if I were sitting in someone’s living room and they were playing only to me. It is quite a feat to make a show in a 1,300-seat venue seem that intimate.
- David Bromberg, David Hidalgo and Larry Campbell on January 29th (Narrows Center for the Arts) – These three musicians are at the top of their game and play together beautifully. I wish they would do more shows such as this (Bromberg and Campbell tour together fairly regularly).
- Booker T. Jones on July 9th (Johnny D’s) – Booker T. is a living legend from the 1960s and this was my first time seeing him (I saw him two days later at Green River and they were perhaps even better, but this show was intimate). He and his band exceeded any expectations I had, both musically and in their humbleness.
- The Black Lillies on August 17th (Extended Play Sessions) – This band is incredible! I have now seen them three times and this was my favorite of those shows. I am sure it was due in part to the intimate nature of the venue, but they were also on fire.
- Alejandro Escovedo on November 15th (Shalin Liu Performance Center) – Alejandro is an artist I have seen a number of times (I cannot say many times – yet!) and I enjoy him more each time. This was the first time I saw him as an acoustic (mostly) duo with a cellist, Matt Fish. Everything about this show was perfect, from the music to the venue which is spectacular.
- The Lone Bellow, Anderson East, Hugh Masterson on November 11th (House of Blues) – The Lone Bellow was my favorite act of the 2013 Newport Folk Festival, and this was the first time since then that I felt lived up to that show. They always have a lot of energy, but seeing Zach leap to the barrier was fabulous! Both openers were amazing, and that contributed to my putting this show in my top ten of the year.
- Ry Cooder, Sharon White, Ricky Skaggs et al on November 17th (Berklee Performance Center) – I had not seen Ry Cooder since the 1970s and was so excited to see this show. He has done many projects in various genres; this show was bluegrass/country/gospel. Every one of the players is fantastic and it was a true family affair with Ry’s son, and Sharon’s father and sister. The vocal harmonies wafted through the venue with such power that I was speechless for much of the show.
- Darlingside, Laney Jones and the Spirit on October 1st (Arts at the Armory) – Two of my favorite bands performed together and delighted the sold-out audience with their vocal and instrumental harmonies, as well as their humor and intelligence. They are friends and in spite of that, I will see either of these bands any time they are in town. You should, too.
- (tied for 10) Gangstagrass on December 12th (Johnny D’s) – Another one of my favorite bands played their last show at this venue that has been so good for them. I am a bit biased because I know and like the band members, but their shows are full of lively music, excellent musicianship, fabulous rap, and fun! They do not tour a lot so you should see them when you can.
11. These are all the runners-up who could just as easily have ousted some of the top ten.
Mary Gauthier and Allison Moorer on March 22nd (Club Passim)
Gregory Alan Isakov on April 14th (The Sinclair)
Rhiannon Giddens on April 18th (Somerville Theatre)
Shelby Lynne on May 7th (Johnny D’s)
KaiL Baxley on June 21st (Club Passim)
Lake Street Dive on August 28th (Lowell Summer Music Series)
Al DiMeola on October 31st (Berklee Performance Center)
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club Adios Tour on November 1st (Symphony Hall)
The Oh Hellos, Family and Friends, Cereus Bright on November 13th (The Paradise Rock Club)
A Mighty Love: Tribute to Mighty Sam McClain on November 28th (Regent Theatre)
The Iguanas on January 24th (Narrows Center for the Arts)
Jorma Kaukonen on March 11th (Extended Play Sessions)
Pink Martini on May 5th (The VETS)
Crosby, Stills & Nash on May 19th (Wang Theatre)
Andy McKee on October 3rd (Regattabar)
Happy listening in 2016! Go hear some live music – it will improve your life!
Posted on January 1, 2016, in concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged Alejandro Escovedo, Booker T. Jones, boston, Darlingside, Dave Rawlings Machine, David Bromberg, David Hidalgo, Gangstagrass, Larry Campbell, Lyle Lovett, Ry cooder, The Black Lillies, The Long Bellow, The Mavericks, top ten concerts, Vince Gill. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.