Posted tagged ‘Ben Sidran’

Memorable Concerts 2018

February 8, 2019

Here’s the recap of  my favorite  concerts of 2018. Yeah, I’m late in posting it. But 13 years into writing this annual piece for Isthmus online. I can say my passion hasn’t cooled for live music.

Take a bow Charlie Hunter, Rodney Crowell, UW Opera, Laurie Anderson, Chicago Symphony, Joe Lovano, Vijay Iyer, Dara Tucker, Emanuel Ax, Dave Alvin, Jon Langford, Jimmie Dale Gimore, Gil Shaham, Tracy Nelson, Ben Sidran, Boz Scaggs and, yes, other great artists.

I write:

In the course of 85 or so shows I saw in 2018, I found lots of momentsof transcendence, revelation, pure joy, mindless boogie and dark insights into the crooked timber of human nature.

That’s to say, the music I like is more than notes. It’s more than entertainment. It’s also about casting a spell. Where time seems to be suspended. Where the faithful gather around the campfire to hear stories of danger and epic romance. Where the magic falls gently over us like a mist. I had those moments in 2018.

None more so than hearing John Luther Adams’ minimalist masterpiece Become Ocean performed on April 7 by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee. There was no more perfect match of music and setting than hearing the shimmering tidal-like movements in the glorious domed basilica. The music floated up and around and washed over the audience like the waves of an ocean before slowly receding. Lost in the experience? That was me.

Adams (no relation to minimalist icon John Adams) deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize for Become Ocean in 2014. The Alaska-based composer is mightily influenced by the experience of raw, overpowering nature. This is compelling yet humbling music that left me in a state of awe.

It was my favorite concert of the year.

To read more, please go here.

As you’ll see, all of the concerts s are within driving distance of Madison. That excluded a quick trip to Austin where I managed to squeeze in shows by R&B stalwart Lou Ann Barton, the magnificent Shelby Lynne and Mike Flanigin’s greasy organ trio featuring Jimmie Vaughan. Marvelous one and all.

Favorite Concerts of 2015

January 2, 2016

For  ten years, I’ve been writing an online roundup of my favorite concerts for Isthmus, the Madison weekly where I wrote and edited for many years. I’m not a critic, but I see a ton of live music.

My tastes are far-ranging. Opera to op’ry. Free jazz to dub. Classical to indigenous. Occasional rock. Blues if I can find it.

Last week, while traveling, I saw the Paris Opera’s widely panned restaging of Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust.” This was a cheeky new twist to  the age-old tale of a desperate man making a deal with the devil. Director Alvis Hermanis brashly uprooted the  opera from its traditional Middle Ages setting and placed it in the near future on the eve of a Mars space mission. This had audiences booing and critics howling.

I loved it. But 2015 was that kind of a musical year for me. The brasher the better. As I wrote in Isthmus:

I was looking for disruptive and challenging music. Some of this, frankly, was a reaction to our politically pissant times. They make you want to holler, to quote Marvin Gaye. If I were still writing about politics, I’d be tempted to raise my hand at press conferences and politely ask our leaders: “Are you fucking serious?”

Dark edgy music, at least on some nights, was where my head was at. It didn’t help I was playing Ben Sidran’s fine new album Blue Camus nonstop on my car’s beat-up CD player. Displaying a jazzman’s innate outsider sensibility, Sidran nailed the gestalt of certain precincts in Madison (and elsewhere) — a profound weariness and frustration with politics.

If they would just back it up or pack it up. Lead, follow or get out of the way,” he exclaims in “Wake Me When It’s Over,” before delivering his homily. “Because sometimes good things can happen to bad people. But, man, baaad people happen to good people every day.”

To read more (some 5,000 words worth), please go here.

My older roundups are here: 201420132012201120102009200820072006.


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