“Tonight I’ll be on that hill ’cause I can’t stop I’ll be on that hill with everything I’ve got” – Bruce Springsteen in “Darkness on the Edge of Town
Bless me readers, for I have sinned. It has been 67 days since my last written confession.
As self-conscious as it sounds, I feel as if it’s necessary to open my year-end column with a plea for forgiveness. I feel as if I owe you an explanation for why I haven’t constructed a single sentence since late October. I feel as if the time has come for me to finally purge the smoldering absence of enthusiasm responsible for draining my creative juices to the point that I was beginning to wonder whether or not I would ever have the desire to write again.
We both know that surrendering the pen isn’t something my über-intellectual nature would allow to happen, but I’d be lying if I said that the notion hasn’t crossed my mind on multiple occasions. My heart just hasn’t been in it.
When I started this column from scratch in 2009, my expectations were modest. All I wanted was an opportunity to cultivate my voice, go to shows, and, with any luck, acquire enough industry exposure to parlay my freelance experience into a full-time gig at a major music publication. While that last part has yet to come to fruition, my overall journey has been one of constant artistic and spiritual fulfillment made even more gratifying by the fact that publicists are now seeking out MY attention rather than the other way around.
Despite nearly 200 articles later, I still wonder if anyone cares. I still find myself questioning not only if anyone reads my work but also whether or not the public has enough independence left to seek out opinions designed to make them reconsider the status quo. My thoughts on the direction in which we’re heading as a culture are no secret, so I’d like to believe that others out there share my desire to elevate the collective standard.
Faithful consumers of this space may recall that last year’s wrap-up piece was marred by a sense that my qi was being disrupted by forces beyond my control with no end in sight. I had allowed negative energy to contaminate my spirit far too often during the latter half of 2013 and was desperately seeking a way to flush out the bad vibes once and for all.
I wish I could say that 2014 ended on better terms, but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
Like Grendel’s mother, the negativity resurfaced with revenge on its mind. I’m thinking that what happened in 2013 didn’t test my moral fiber nearly enough, because that’s the only explanation I can muster for why the past three month have challenged me so much.
I saw things I never thought I would see, I worried about things I had previously taken for granted, and, for the first time ever, I started to entertain the possibility that things would never return to the way they once were.
My reality had shifted and the ghosts of days gone by were never coming back again.
So, with 2015 looming, I want to forge ahead with the tenacity and commitment to excellence that my readers deserve, because I refuse to let anyone or anything get the best of me. Regardless of what the next year brings, I will persevere and continue to rage against the dying of the light more fervently than I ever have. I will continue to give it everything I’ve got, because I’ve taken it as a personal responsibility to deliver unflinching analysis in the face of mediocrity and I think we can all agree that the world would be an even sorrier place if the wishy-washy drones currently passing for cultural commentators were the only voices we had access to.
On that note, I present to you the 10 concerts from 2014 that resonated with me in a way that can’t be overstated.
Goo Goo Dolls with Run River North at North Park Theatre – Buffalove surged through the veins of Hertel Avenue in late April as our favorite sons returned for a sublime jaunt through their storied catalog. I was skeptical following their shaky Super Bowl performance, but this unplugged show ended up being one for the ages.
Read my full review here: http://www.examiner.com/review/there-s-no-place-like-home-for-the-goo-goo-dolls
Jackson Browne at Artpark – Who needs a full band when you can stun an audience with just a piano and a voice sans electronic enhancement of any kind?
Read my full review here: http://www.examiner.com/review/jackson-browne-proves-flawless-during-artpark-set
Stanley Clarke Band at The Tralf Music Hall – I’m pretty sure that pieces of my jaw can still be found scattered throughout the venue.
Read my full review here: http://www.examiner.com/review/stanley-clarke-band-puts-on-a-clinic-at-the-tralf
Justin Hayward at The Bear’s Den inside Seneca Niagara Casino – With all due respect to John Lodge and Graeme Edge, Hayward afforded himself just fine in this intimate acoustic setting. Add in burgeoning guitarist Mike Dawes and you have what I referred to as the best sounding show I’ve ever experienced in that room.
Read my full review here: http://www.examiner.com/review/justin-hayward-fulfills-the-bear-s-den-s-wildest-dreams
Mastodon, Gojira, and Kvelertak at Town Ballroom – This was Buffalo’s metal extravaganza of the year, by far.
Read my full review here: http://www.examiner.com/review/mastodon-leads-trio-of-heavy-hitters-at-town-ballroom
John Legend at Seneca Allegany Events Center – He’s one of the most engaging personalities in contemporary R&B and the way in which he seamlessly fuses musicality with personal integrity is never less than masterful.
Read my full review here: http://www.examiner.com/review/john-legend-is-class-personified-at-seneca-allegany
Sam Roberts Band at Canalside – Although I took issue with the behavior of many audience members, this was still the crown jewel of the new management’s inaugural run.
Read my full review here: http://www.examiner.com/review/sam-roberts-band-delivers-at-canalside
Macy Gray inside The Bear’s Den at Seneca Niagara Casino – I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people didn’t realize that Gray was still on the scene after years removed from mainstream success, but this was an exuberant evening worthy of attention.
Read my full review here: http://www.examiner.com/review/macy-gray-makes-a-strong-statement-during-seneca-niagara-set
Scott Stapp inside The Bear’s Den at Seneca Niagara Casino – I’ll be the first to admit that this show wasn’t even on my radar early in the year, but I’d be remiss not to include Stapp’s triumph on the list. While I can feel the shock permeating through your system as I write this, the bottom line is that, in spite of his past and recent struggles, Stapp poured everything he had into this show and made me put his entire career into a deeper, more objectively reasoned perspective. I couldn’t care less about what anyone else thinks, because life is too short to lazily hate on everything.
Read my full review here: http://www.examiner.com/review/scott-stapp-finds-redemption-at-seneca-niagara
Read my interview with Scott here: http://www.examiner.com/article/an-interview-with-scott-stapp
Ian Anderson at UB Center for the Arts – Because I never had the chance to experience Jethro Tull in its prime, this was it for me. Sure, Anderson’s voice doesn’t soar as effortlessly as it once did, but he still kills it in every other facet of the game. The songwriting is exceptional, the performance art is delightfully twisted, and the caliber of musicians he surrounds himself with is among the best around.
Read my interview with Ian here: http://www.examiner.com/article/don-t-call-him-jethro-an-interview-with-ian-anderson