Jan 12 – Moshen Namjoo at Symphony Space
Persian cabaret, fiery and soulful.
Jan 19 – Riyaaz Qawwali at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Indian devotional music, everyone sitting on the floor, under the dome, quite amazing.
Feb 16 – Mingus Big Band at Jazz Standard
As good as ever.
Feb 22 – moe. at Brooklyn Bowl
Somehow my first time seeing them. Loved the vibes (and the vibe.)
Feb 28 – The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Cha Wa at Brooklyn Bowl
Legendary figures with full tanks of gas. Opening act Cha Wa in Cajun Indian regalia, deep, energetic funk. Will absolutely catch them again.
March 12 – Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis at Carnegie Hall
It’s good to see classical music once in a while.
March 17 – Mike Gordon Band at White Eagle Hall
PATH train to Jersey City to see Mike in a small club. He was having so much fun. Good songs, very good performance. For the devoted only, maybe. Trey showed up at the Cambridge, Mass gig to play with his friend.
March 21 – Noura Mint Seymali at Brooklyn Bowl
Third time seeing her. Same act. Will go a fourth time. Unbelievable power.
April 11 – Buckethead at Sony Hall
A real shitty show. I left early.
April 12 – Trey Anastasio’s Ghosts of the Forest at United Palace
Was in the second row for this, a magical night.
April 13 – Trey Anastasio’s Ghosts of the Forest at United Palace
Brought the wife and was in center mezz. Got to drink in the stage design. A long show, no breaks, emotional, better than night 1. I’ll never forget this.
April 19 – Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets at the Beacon Theater
Kind’ve a waste of time. I was curious, I rolled the dice and I spent way more money than I should have. I blame David Gilmour’s show at MSG in 2016 (or was it 2015) for being so perfect, prompting me to catch to this. Rebbe gelt.
April 26 – Trey Anastasio Band at the Beacon Theater
Trey’s big night. A 75 minute set after the debut of his movie Between Me and My Mind (review here at Thrillist). I was right up front and so happy for him. To be 100% honest I think he was a little spooked out at first, and during the opening numbers he wasn’t in his groove. That ended by the finish.
April 29 – Trey Anastasio Band at Brooklyn Bowl
Hot damn. TAB up close and personal in a small club, tix won on lottery. Back was breaking by the end but it was worth it. He’s really the greatest performer ever.
May 4 – Baaba Maal at The Town Hall
I love Town Hall, so any show there is already +5. First 2/3rds was mellow, third-stream Afrobeat/jazz with Steven Bernstein leading an orchestra. Bernstein is very talented, but so fucking obnoxious. Always has been. Whatever. By the end the place was on fire when Baaba took full control and everyone started dancing.
May 18 – Mulatu Astatke at Le Poisson Rouge
The Father of Ethiopian Jazz at a small basement club. Hot and crowded and perfect. Funky, spacey and really warm. A highlight of the year.
May 29 – The Musical Box at Sony Hall
Pre-’78 Genesis, played to perfection, with a Peter Gabriel mimic nonpareil. Costumes, bass pedals, the whole bit. Where else will you see someone jam out “Dance on a Volcano” or “Cinema Show” note-for-note? Nowhere, that’s where. The greatest thing to come from Quebec since poutine.
June 15 – Gary Lucas at Metrograph
Lucas’ original score to The Golem is hypnotizing, terrifying, awe-inspiring.
June 23 – Dead & Co. at CitiField
I have a very weird relationship with Dead & Co. They are really quite boring to listen to at home. Sorry, but it is true. And I would much rather hear JRAD if I wanted to hear someone play Dead music. There’s also something to be said about the intimacy of the Dark Star Orchestra, which is a brilliant Grateful Dead facsimile with just none of the hassle, man. Okay, but all that aside — I have now seen Dead & Co. four times, so clearly there’s some reason I keep going back. And not just Mickey Hart’s beam (even if that is my favorite part.) There’s the vibe, I guess, that can’t be replicated. Also, if you know when and where to buy, you can see them on a balmy summer night for about $55. The songs are still great. Let Oteil sing!
June 28 – Phish at BB&T Pavilion
It took five hours to get from NYC to Philly. I couldn’t tell you why. Traffic. Who knows. But then we got there and there was a torrential storm so the show was delayed anyway. I was inside the pavilion so it wasn’t so bad for me. But it was stinking HOT! That can be kinda fun sometimes. I sweated so much it looked like I was out in the rain. Anyway, the “Drift While Your Sleeping” at the end of Set I really knocked me out. I was singing at full voice. The “Sleeping Monkey” encore was very funny. I love this band so much.
June 30 – Phish at BB&T Pavilion
The “What’s The Use?” encore just destroyed me. After the show I lined up with hundreds of others to take the ferry from Camden to Philly, where I was bunking at a cheapo Hotels.com spot for the night. On the line I made friends (you always do!) and we were joking, as the ferry filled up, that SOMEBODY had to be the first one told “sorry, we’re full” and have to wait a half hour or so for the next one. I said “I don’t mind if it is me, I have nowhere to be.” And then, of course, it ended up being me. I did not mind, truly. I was by the water, with Phish fans, joking around. I met a couple who travelled there from Mississippi. Really nice. Then we got to the other side and I shared an Uber with a professional lawyer lady type who had that Laura Dern “I am a killer in the boardroom” look. She said that every summer she dumps her kids with her husband to catch a few Phish shows. She was in from Seattle. Anyway, she was a hoot. Then I got back to my room and stayed up til 4am alone listening to Phish and tweeting with Phish fans.
July 11 – Spafford at The Stone Pony
Might become my new favorite thing, I’m not sure.
July 26 – Cha Wa at Bryant Park
When I saw Cha Wa open for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in February I said “I will see them again.” (Scroll up to confirm.) I didn’t think it would be this soon. Brought my nephew, who I think was more impressed that in New York, on a weekday, you can get on the subway, ride to a park, and see such a strange band for free.
August 7 – Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes with Bruce Springsteen at Asbury Park Convention Hall
Special event show. Really fun.
August 28 – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at Summerstage
These guys are great but I wasn’t feeling it. I was wet, then cold, then surrounded by people who were shoving, and getting blasted in the face with smoke. I left early. No shade on these guys, they are terrific, just a bummer night.
September 3 – Georgie Fame and Blue Flames at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club
An incredible night of songs and stories from a British R&B singer I only know because of Van Morrison. The 60-and-older set in London loved him, and I did, too. This was special.
September 21 – King Crimson at Radio City Music Hall
6000 fans in stone silence, seated, as this dissonant racket makes their scales and squonks and screeches up there on the Radio City stage. I kept wondering what the ushers thought. Absolutely incredible (and better than the Beacon show in 2017) with three drummers at the front of the stage like syncopated swimmers. All rock shows should have three drummers at the front of the stage. No words were spoken from the stage, Robert Fripp barely acknowledged he was in public and other than the lighting turning diabolically red during “Starless” and the drummers tossing their sticks on a rest at the end of the encore (“21th Century Schizoid Man,” naturally) there was zero stagecraft at all. It isn’t a warm night. But I’d see them again tonight if I could.
September 27 – Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Beacon Theater
So tight and polished and uplifting and strong and then blazing and then again uplifting and the crowd absolutely loved it but they also sat down the whole time, which was weird, but it was absolutely great.
October 12 – Trey Anastasio with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Chris Thile and Sarah Jarosz at The Town Hall
A voyage deep into NPR country. Had a great time but I don’t see myself tuning in for future Thile shows if my heroes aren’t on them.
October 30 – Trey Anastasio at Carnegie Hall
Just Trey, his songs and his acoustic guitar. And some stories. This was a night for the already-initiated. Trey is a great singer, but he isn’t a “Great Singer” if that makes any sense. Anyway, this was a wonderful night and I had so much fun.
November 3 – John Zorn’s New Masada Quartet at Village Vanguard
I had not seen Zorn in any form in maybe 15 years. But the Masada stuff has always been my favorite aspect of his career. This was a tsunami. Sure, maybe not the shock of the first iteration, but no one has invented a time machine yet. Julian Lage, the new guitarist, is a little less cerebral, if that is the right word, than some of the other Masada-ites like Marc Ribot, and could definitely crossover into the jam world if he so chooses. Naturally, this is a big selling point for me. This show was incredible and if they do a similar residency next year I’m not just catching one I’m gonna plant myself and go broke.
November 19 – Bill Frisell Trio at Jazz Standard
The greatest of all time? Maybe so, maybe so. A perfect show, quiet then driving then a little axe-shredding then quiet again. About a 70 minute set with only one pause. Covers of Lennon-McCartney and John Barry (!) plus one of the jams from “The Intercontinentals” which is maybe my favorite Frisell period. So good. So goddamn good.
November 29 – Hot Tuna (with Steve Kimock) at The Town Hall
If Steely Dan brings out all the retired dentists from Westchester, Hot Tuna brings out their burnout older brothers from Nassau. At Town Hall, especially, this was truly a gift of a show; a caravan of hairy, stoner Jews that looked like Alan Moore and Frank Zappa’s love children, a Workmen’s Circle meeting of the Mind, leather jacket-wearing dirtbags with enormous stomachs who don’t go to Temple anymore now that their nephews have all been bar mitzvahed. A sixty-five year old man out front arguing he couldn’t bring a knife into the venue, a woman who once co-edited a poetry journal at Stony Brook thunderstruck by the price of a glass of red wine. Despite the advanced age (Jorma Kaukonen, weeks away from his 79th! Mazel!) an undercurrent of danger, still, when these people collect. “Hot Fuckin’ Tuna!” they’d shout, before a song, after a song, during a song. The boys shredded and wailed and there was so much cowbell. I was the youngest person there and I am a hundred and six years old. Absolutely fantastic, one of the best nights of the year.
December 1 – Phish at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
A dream gig, which I attended with a carload of old and new friends, and had a great spot down front and center, on my aching feet, enjoying “Avenu Malkenu” with a room full of giggling Jews, a spacey Tube, a sweet Ruby Waves and, man, I dunno, a lot of great stuff. The best Phish show I saw in 2019 (thus far!)
December 4 – Phillip Glass’ Akhnaten at The Metropolitan Opera House
I don’t know if going to the opera counts as going to a play or going to a concert, but considering the price tag involved I’ve decided to make note of it. So, yeah, a significant percentage of what I’ll take away from this event is the visual element — the costumes, the lighting, the weirdo props, the juggling! — but it wouldn’t mean squat without Glass’s swirling melodies and uncannily delicious and mostly-predictable (but not always) permutations in melody. I had no clue what the hell was going on in the story, and not just because I don’t speak ancient Akkadian. The program notes would say something like “the King then created a new religion” but all that was happening on stage was a bunch of people with giant bird heads were juggling and going “huh huh huh huuuuuh huh huh huh haaaaa.” Nevertheless, this was a delight and I would go again if tickets weren’t so goddamn expensive.
December 11 – New York Andalus Ensemble at La Nacional, Spanish Benevolent Society NYC
Sitting in the round and led by a professor/lecturer singing and playing the oud, this group resurrects music of al-Andalus in Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and Ladino. And it rules.
December 13 – Central Conservator of Music Symphony Orchestra of Beijing at Carnegie Hall
We ended up in the 3rd row, center orchestra for this. I’ve never even been on the ground level at Carnegie Hall, let alone the 3rd row and WOW it is just OTHERWORLDLY to hear a humongous symphony orchestra even just tuning up when you are that close and in its swirl. This night was incredible: eight contemporary composers from China. It was a full Western orchestra with additional Chinese instrumentation. Five of the eight pieces featured a soloist: either bamboo flutes, marimba/drums (and the woman banging these was a POWERHOUSE), pipa (which is like a flat oud) and a curious, enormous mouth organ called the sheng that looks like a Star Wars prop and sounds like the “Carnival of Souls.” This was a really lengthy program that didn’t get dull for 2 seconds.
December 24 – Yemen Blues at Joe’s Pub
Radical Yemenite Jewish funk with Chicago (the band) type horns and an Israeli James Brown up front, featuring a cello, an electric oud, the guembri and a lot of energy. It was night 3 of Chanukah so a Hassid named Shlomo to light candles and then started toasting. Far out! Merry Christmas!
December 28 – Phish at Madison Square Garden
Great opening night to the New Year’s Run. Bumped into two Phish buddies in my section. They played Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.! And Drowned into Ass Handed with Chalkdust Torture Reprise with Ass Handed lyrics.
December 29 – Phish at Madison Square Garden
I had such incredible seats this night – directly behind the stage, which sounds bad, but isn’t because you are basically FACING THE CROWD with the band. I felt like I could reach out and bash Fish’s cymbals and I watched them tease and delight the sea of dancing fans. Far out.
December 30 – Phish at Madison Square Garden
Was with a really fun group tonight. Set 1 was super but Set 2 was one for the ages. A 36 minute Tweezer that had a Yo La Tengo-inspired section and then a “Potvin Sucks!” conclusion, then into Ruby Waves and Steam and then back into Tweezer again. Aaaaaaaaaaa it is all too much.
December 31 – Phish at Madison Square Garden
Set 1 – great! We got a Fluffhead.
Set 2 – super great! A really wild jam on Light and Twist and Possum brought the house down.
During set break for the midnight gag, the tech guys REMOVE all of Phish’s gear (and there is a lot of gear) and leave the stage empty except for 8 cubes with black drapes. The music on the PA is all about colors (Green Tambourine, 99 Red Balloons) or songs about doubles (Double Dutch Bus or Double Vision). Lights go out and we hear the band goofing over “not hot mics” about how it is their dream to do a cappella jazz at Madison Square Garden. They come out in color-coded outfits. Trey is in green, Mike is in yellow, Page is in blue and Fish’s dress is red. The get to the mic and sing “Send in the CLONES.” Sondheim but with a dumb pun. When it ends, their instruments descend on platforms, color-coded to what they are wearing and they each step on. As they zoom up, they begin First Tube (Yay!!!) Then the clones come in — dancers and backup singers all dressed exactly like one of the four guys. The lights blast only these four basic colors. It’s nuts. Then it is midnight and there are million balloons during Auld Lanf Syne. It’s superb. Then they play Sand. The dancers are still doing an involved, modern choreographed dance. So great. (The clones, about 10 groups of four, aren’t just dressed like their guy, they have matched hairstyles too. So Trey’s clones have red hair, Mike’s are grey and Page’s look like David Ben-Gurion.) They take the drapes off the cubes and they are bright colored matching platforms. They move them around with their dance. Sand eventually ends and …. TREY IS STUCK. The other three guys come down, he does not. After a long, long beat, Trey makes some jokes about stage diving like Eddie Vedder. Mike says “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long.” (Or maybe that was Fish who said it.) Trey makes a Spinal Tap joke. Even though Trey is stuck and his platform is crooked, they continue to play: Drift While You’re Sleeping and What’s The Use? and YEM. They don’t do trampolines for YEM. (Trey actually has to kneel once or twice while playing because his platform is crooked.) The dancers do the trampoline bit. Oh, and earlier, they had Dan Flavin-esque fluorescent tubes but I didn’t watch that part because I was FREAKING OUT, worrying Trey was going to crash and die in front of 20,000 fans. Eventually the set ends, but they can’t leave and come back for the encore. So Trey says “we’re back for the encore now!” and they play Tweezer Reprise and everyone leaves except Trey. “Good-bye! I’ll be here!” he says to the rest of the band. Finally, the Rescue Squad saves him and within 30 minutes LivePhish.com has a new song “Rescue Squad.” In my heart I knew that “this will seem funny” tomorrow, but at the time, I genuinely was worried the cable might snap or he might fall. We all were worried. It … it wasn’t that fun. I barely heard Drift While You’re Sleeping because I was panicky, and I *love* that song. You could tell the guys kinda wanted to get their guy DOWN. But they did the most “show must go on” set of their careers. Phish. What a band!
Jan 12 – Moshen Namjoo at Symphony Space