What we LOVED this year: Popular Music

If quantitative measures trended downward generally, some longtime favorites drew big numbers. Baby

Edison Research recently interviewed 15,000 young people (12 to 24) and only 12 percent said they’d attended three or more concerts in a year, down from 24 percent in 2000; and 64 percent said they hadn’t attended a single show all year.

These dire national numbers translated locally into the closing of some valued venues, notably Revolution Hall (it may reopen), Tess’ Lark Tavern (that scene has moved to McGeary’s) and Bread & Jam Cafe in Cohoes, and often surprisingly small crowds at even fine shows.

However, if quantitative measures trended downward generally, some longtime favorites — Phish, the Dave Matthews Band, Elton John & Billy Joel — drew big numbers. Baby boomers, long the stalwart supporters of live music here, pleasantly surprised SPAC, turning out in happy graying droves for Tom Petty and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Qualitatively, 2010 was a better-than-average year onstage here; with perhaps a disproportionate share turning up at The Egg.

Gazette music writers Michael Hochanadel, Dave Singer and Brian McElhiney reviewed more than 120 pop, rock, blues and folk shows in 2010, and the high points were very high indeed. Here are their Top 10 and some honorable mentions:

Disco Biscuits at The Egg (March 18). The trance-fusionistic Disco Biscuits did what no one else does: They jammed to trance, and they played songs, or sounds, for 30 minutes at a time before moving into the next techno reverie. They reached riveting heights this year, and then climbed a little higher, creating a wild night of dance and fun. (Singer)

Visqueen at Valentine’s (May 18). The giddy Seattle punk-poppers rocked hard (though not nearly long enough) at this beyond-intimate show, bringing plenty of girl power and muscular grooves. Vocalist/guitarist Rachel Flotard led a ferocious power trio with stand-in drummer Barrett Martin, formerly of Screaming Trees, taking the most valuable player award for his nonstop pounding. (McElhiney)

Peter Wolf at The Egg (May 21). One of rock’s greatest frontmen tore it up, to thrilling effect, in a remarkable sort of compression and explosion by this electric talent. He seemed made of rubber as he dropped to his knees to plead, jumped around and spun to celebrate, danced and pranced for rock ’n’ roll joy. (Hochanadel)

Nona Hendryx at Music Haven (July 25). All drama, drive and fiery funk, the veteran soul singer crooned and screamed, shed her jacket, shoes and inhibitions, leading her band with bold voice and willowy moves. She gave an amazingly engaging performance of songs that sound good on record but became great onstage. (Hochanadel)

Wilco’s “Solid Sound Festival” at MASS MoCA (Aug 14). Headlining their own three-day event, the Chicago rockers were the best of nine acts on two stages. Jeff Tweedy’s songs and singing were the soul of the show, but guitarist Nels Cline molded its sound. Perfect weather put everyone in a great mood, on- and off-stage. (Hochanadel)

Alejandro Escovedo at The Egg (Sept 30). Fronting perhaps his best-ever band, the Texas rocker meant every word and made each song a sonic screenplay — extra-loud or tenderly soft — that left everyone breathless. Great, great opener by former Albanian Hamell on Trial, too. (Hochanadel)

Joan Baez at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (Oct. 26). The folk legend proved that her incomparable voice hasn’t lost any of its luster after over 50 years. From Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” to an absolutely stunning version of “Imagine,” Baez’s vocals were at once haunting and comforting, turning classic songs both new and old into her own. (McElhiney)

Peter Case at Valentine’s (Nov. 5). Billed as a solo performance for Case, it turned into a full-on blues-rock jam with the last-minute addition of local drummer Brian Goodman. Throughout, Case was relaxed, delving deep into his back catalog (including songs by his previous band, the Plimsouls) and pulling out one of the rawest, most spontaneous performances to grace a venue known for such things. (McElhiney)

Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar at The Egg (Nov. 6). They made amazing music, Hussain on tabla, Kumar on sitar. Mesmerizing the audience individually and together, summoning spiritually rich sounds, they were always melodic, always intense. For the uninitiated or well-experienced, the Eastern music was wild and exciting. (Singer)

The Allman Brothers Band at The Palace Theatre (Nov. 15). The band might have few originals from 41 years ago, but the sound, excitement and vision of the Allman Brothers remain solidly intact. They played another superb night, led by guitar solos from Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks — an uncanny replacement for Duane Allman, as if the band finally came full circle. Of course Gregg Allman sounded priceless as always. (Singer)

Honorable Mention

—  Rosanne Cash at The Egg, Feb. 27 (Hochanadel)

—   John Hiatt at The Egg, March 4 (Hochanadel)

—   Chip Taylor at WAMC’s Linda Norris Auditorium, March 5 (McElhiney)

—   Elton John and Billy Joel at Times Union Center, March 11 (McElhiney)

—   Bettye LaVette with the Sisters of Soul (Maria Muldaur and Marcia Ball) at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, March 14 (Hochanadel)

—   Angelique Kidjo at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, April. 1 (Hochanadel)

—   Bob Schneider at WAMC’s Linda Norris Auditorium, April 2 (McElhiney)

—  Janis Ian and Karla Bonoff at The Egg, April 18 (Singer)

—   Cowboy Junkies at Revolution Hall, May 7 (Hochanadel)

—   Tift Merritt at WAMC’s Linda Norris Auditorium, June 11 (Hochanadel)

—   Melissa Etheridge at Palace Theatre, July 19 (Singer)

—   Devo at Northern Lights, July 31 (McElhiney)

—   Janelle Monae at the Skidmore Sports & Recreation Center, Oct. 1. (Hochanadel)

—   Carolina Chocolate Drops at The Egg, Sept. 12 (Hochanadel)

—   Bad Religion at Northern Lights, Oct. 16 (McElhiney)

—   Social Distortion at Northern Lights, Oct. 28 (McElhiney)

—  Richard Thompson at The Egg, Oct. 30 (Hochanadel)

—   Martin Sexton at The Egg, Nov. 13 (McElhiney)

—   The subdudes at The Egg, Nov. 20 (Hochanadel)

Categories: Life & Arts

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