2011 was a banner year for concerts for me, seeing more
national acts than usual despite Bumber-shooting blanks (a lot of
locals). Warpaint, Leon Russell and
Broken Social Scene being the only touring acts I liked on the day I
attended. But Warren Hellman’s huge
annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass event at Golden Gate Park more than made up
for Bumbershoot. Sadly, Hellman passed away
last week. Wintergrass at The Hyatt in
Bellevue was once again a delight on our day of attendance, with Michael
Doucet, Laurie Lewis, Republic Of Strings and the highlight for me, the young
high-impact string band, Scythian.
Other highlights were Rodney Crowell at Harbor Steps Out To Lunch. A rare WA appearance by him with a band. A recent gig at The Tractor and the last time
I saw him, in 1990, at the Ellensburg Rodeo, being the only two other Crowell band WA visits by him. Finally got to see Albert Lee. He and John Jorgenson (Elton John, Desert
Rose Band) together with their nimble fingers at the Triple Door were quite the
tandem. Crowell was on his way to the Vancouver Island
Music Fest and Lee and Jorgenson were returning, Lee guesting with Crowell up
there. Had a nice visit with Lee and
Jethro Tull doing Aqualung in its entirety at Ste Michelle
was cool. Long time no-seeing Ian
Anderson. Also at Ste M, Styx blowing
away Yes. Toby Keith and Eric Church
made for a great day of partying at the Gorge.
Saw one of the best acts I’ve ever seen at the Fest Of The River near
Arlington, that being Buffy Sainte Marie with her dynamic presentation of her
hits and Indian influenced songs and chants with a rock band of Native Canadians. Indians playing the rock stage of that pow
wow, how about that.
My rankings of touring acts in 2011, excluding U2 and HSBluegrass
acts that I only got a glimpse of. (Links
are to my reviews):
1. Rodney Crowell at OTL Harbor Steps - Great songs and a crack band with lead guitarist, Jedd Hughes, most impressive.
2. Albert Lee and John Jorgenson at the TD – Talk impressive guitar work, and double downed.
3. Jethro Tull at Ste Michelle – Had seen them in a double bill with Fairport Convention at Mercer Arena in ’87 and at Bshoot in ’98, but way too long ago. We were right up front for Anderson’s prancing and facials and Martin Barre’s triumphant guitar work.
4. Styx at Ste Michelle - Not a big fan of their recorded work and I had seen them not too long ago (Puyallup Fair – ’04) , but these guys really know how to put on a rock show. Not a dull moment.
5. Ryan Bingham at HSB - This guy rocked hard with some pretty cool ripping interludes with his guitarists-banjoists, guest guitarist, Bill Kirchen, and himself on electric slide.
6. Buffy Sainte Marie at Festival Of The River - Quite a dynamic performance from this mover and shaker. From spiritual to chants to traditional aboriginal to rock to talk. Could have left the political talk out, but otherwise, pretty damn impressive.
7. Leon Russell at Bumbershoot Mural - Much looser and rocking than with Elton at Bridge in ’10.
8. Toby Keith at The Gorge – This guy has some fun party songs, and the balmy Gorge evening, suite seating and partying cow-people were nice too.
9. The Baseball Project at The Tractor - I love baseball, clever baseball songs and whatever Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck are involved in. Steve Wynn and his wife are good too.
10. Scythian at Wintergrass - These young fellows and girl had the room bouncing with their jam-rock-prog-grass and multi-part vocals. Look out for them.
11. Sting at The Paramount - First time to see him. The show had a couple low points that more hits would have overcome, but the musicianship and singing was great, especially Peter Tickell on fiddle.
12. The Jayhawks at HSB – Returning Karen Grottberg and Mark Olson and a new album fortified this show. Personally, I like them better without Olson.
13. Robyn Hitchock at HSB - I really liked this all-acoustic show with his clever and educational quips, and David Rawlings and Gillian Welch in the band.
14. Moonalice at HSB – This Bay Area band of all-stars rocked, especially impressive was the venerable Pete Sears on bass, piano and voice.
15. The Chieftains with the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya - Quite a cavalcade of Celtic performances, including dancing.
16. Yes at Ste Michelle - I missed Jon Anderson, but pretty wondrous progressive rock music and lighting.
Honorable Mention (in no order):
Jesse Colin Young, Canned Heat, Big Bro & The Holding Co
and It’s A Beautiful Day at Festival Of The River’s tribute to the Sky River
festivals. (How about 2010 Fest’s, The
Band Perry’s, rise to stardom?)
Robert Plant And The Band Of Joy, Reckless Kelly with Joe Ely, Emmylou et al, M Ward, Devil Makes Three, Mother Hips at HSB.
Eric Church and JT Hodges at The Gorge.
Warpaint and Broken Social Scene at Bumbershoot.
Michael Doucet, Laurie Lewis (big band) and Republic Of Strings at Wintergrass.
Crystal Bowersox and husband at Harbor Steps, Out To Lunch - The best voice I've heard at OTL.
Mention (in no order):
The Damnwells at Waterfront Park - OTL.
The Wronglers at Stanwood SLOW.
Band Of Heathens, Flatlanders, Ollabelle at HSB.