Wednesday, December 29, 2010

We Are The 2 Live Crew: The Year In Live Music

Looking back on my year in live music, I realized that I was accompanied by my daughter, Hannah (11 in January 2010), to all five concerts I managed to get to. She will add her comments to mine.

The Nose - I have been a Shostakovich fanatic for decades so when I heard Valery Gergiev was leading a production of his rare opera (based on the Gogol novel) at the Met, with a production designed by William Kentridge, there was no way I was going to miss it. I took Hannah and one of her best friends and it lived up to every expectation I had - from the staggering stagecraft to Paul Bott's unforgettable lead performance, to the virtuosic orchestra, it was a blast from start to finish. Although Hannah has been to opera performances before, this was her first trip to the Met. Here's what she had to say: "This was a quality performance that had both great music and great humor."

Tanglewood x2 - Although getting to a chamber music concert at 10:00 am on a Sunday might seem painful, it was more than worth it. And the price was right - $11 for me and $0 for Hannah. They don't list the program on the website so we had no idea what we were going to hear. As we waited in our seats for the music to begin, I scanned through the program. I told Hannah she was in for a real treat - two pieces by Takemitsu, which meshed nicely with her interest in Japanese culture. Elliott Carter, Gabrieli, Hindemith and Strauss were also on the varied program. Day Signal opened the program, with the brass lined up on the balcony producing a creamy, otherworldly tone. It was absolutely captivating and the musicians, all students from around the world, were flawless. 

After Gabrieli's clever Canzone for 12 In Double Echo and Takemitsu's Night Signal, it was time for Carter's Tintinnabulation. This is a piece he wrote for untuned percussion - no xylophones sneaking a melody in - and it was deeply involving and theatrical to watch. The engagement with the materials - wood, metal, etc. - of each instrument was brilliant. Imagine our surprise when, during the ovation, the 102 year old Carter himself stood up to soak up the applause. Quite an experience. A few weeks later we went again and the standout was the fascinating Economy Of Wax by Nicholas Vines, which is part of a multi-composer series of works based on the work of Charles Darwin. If you're in the Berkshires on a summer weekend, set your alarm and treat yourself to one of these remarkable concerts. Hannah had this to say: "These concerts have such a variety of pieces and it was a good experience to meet some famous composers."

Burning Spear - It's been a tough year for reggae. With the deaths of both Sugar Minott and Gregory Isaacs, there are few legends out there, and even fewer still performing with the vigor of The Spear. Instead of coming from the hills of Jamaica, he came over the bridge from Queens for this a free concert in the River To River festival in Rockefeller Park. While there was admittedly some shtick to his act, his crack band's dubbed out jamming, his own conga playing and dancing and his still potent voice, conjured a mood of joy and contemplation as the sun set at our backs. I last saw him  about 25 years ago and he's scarcely lost a step. Here's what Hannah thought: "Great, both beautiful music and beautiful sound and the instruments were in good harmony with the vocals."

Waiting For Holly
Holly Miranda - Since the NY Times (!) directed me to her MySpace page, I have been nattering on about Holly Miranda to anyone who will listen and waiting for a chance to see her live. The chance finally came when she played the Prospect Park Bandshell (with Metric) so Hannah I trekked out to the old hood for the show. Although it was only a 45 minute set, she showcased her gorgeous voice, generous spirit (many invited friends joined her on stage) and dream-like song writing. Her band injected an angular energy into her music that countered the introverted sound of her recordings and made for a great live sound. Her cover of I'd Rather Go Blind, featuring a blistering solo by Kaki King, was a raw expression of her talent. Can't wait to see her as a headliner! This was Hannah's first rock concert - here's what she thought: "I love the way there were so many people on stage at once at times, it was great how good even small sounds sounded amazing with everything else."

The only live lowlight was the one show I didn't see - Belle and Sebastian at the Williamsburg Waterfront. Had my ticket for months but the threatening weather discouraged me from going. Having already survived a tornado on the Driscoll Bridge in NJ, I couldn't countenance tempting fate again. My sister and nephew went and said it was fantastic. Oh, well. B&S will remain on the short list of bands I need to see live, along with Radiohead, The Walkmen, TV On The Radio and a few others. 

Looking forward to hearing and seeing what 2011 brings for me and my intrepid concert companion - the 2 Live Crew!

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