Concert Edition 2015

[Duran Duran, Washington State Fair, Sept. 23, 2015]

Concert reviews were always something I wanted to write for this site, but I never drummed up the gumption to jot down my thoughts about shows after I attend them. In reality, I didn’t want shows to become means to an end, in the same way album purchases had become source for reviews.

Still, I go to a lot of concerts, and it feels awkward not mentioning them at least once.

So I’m going to do a year-end overview of all the shows I’ve attended in the past year.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 2], Feb. 13, 2015

Seattle Symphony’s [untitled] series takes the wind out of the typical concert experience by hosting them in the Benaroya Hall lobby with general admission seating and alcohol sold throughout the night. It suites the avant-garde programming of the concerts, and the second [untitled] concert of the 2014-2015 featured string quartets by John Adams and Vladmir Martynov.

Kronos Quartet recorded the Martynov works, which didn’t really grab my attention neither on disc nor live. I’m much more familiar with Adams’ quartet, which is one of his busiest works.

Bang on a Can Marathon, Feb. 15, 2015

A six-hour concert without an intermission? In reality, the breaks between ensembles allowed enough time for people to get up and stretch, and it turned out those six hours went by fast. The evening opened with Bang on a Can All-Star’s arrangement of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. I’ve heard the ensemble perform only the first movement, so hearing the entire piece was a real treat.

Shabazz Palaces came on midway through the concert, but I can’t say they left me curious to hear me more.

I hadn’t heard Michael Gordon’s Yo Shakespeare in a while, and the streamlined arrangement for Bang on a Can lost none of the punch of the full chamber orchestra version recorded by Alarm Will Sound.

Of course, the main event was the Seattle premiere of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. Amazing this pieces has never been performed in this town till now. I hope it’s not the last.

Catalyst Quartet, Mar. 19, 2015

Catalyst Quartet programmed an evening of modern American composers, skewing more toward accessible works by Samuel Barber, Philip Glass and Osvaldo Golijov. Even the Charles Ives piece on the program — his first quartet — fit with the amiable program. The only piece to provide a challenge for the audience was Joan Tower’s wrenching In Memory.

Seattle Symphony, Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 5, 6, 7, Mar. 28, 2015

Seattle Symphony tackled Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 with such breathtaking gusto, I was disappointed when people didn’t clap after the first movement, myself included. That was a performance that really called for public displays of appreciation, concert etiquette be damned.

Emerson String Quartet, Apr. 21, 2015

I’ve been trying to see the Emerson Quartet for years, but other shows kept getting in the way. Emerson doesn’t depend on modern works for its bread and butter, but I do like how they balance standard repertoire with newer pieces. On this program, Beethoven was paired up with Peter Lieberson and Dmitri Shostakovich.

Seattle Symphony, [untitled 3], May 1, 2015

The final [untitled] concert for the 2014-2015 season focused on the works of George Perle, a twelve-tone composer who wasn’t so dogmatic to turn his back on tonality. The interview with Perle’s widow got me interested in hearing more of his works. The evening ended with a sound installation by Trimpin, a piece that included a needless soprano failing to channel Meredith Monk. The gesture-controlled custom instruments were doing fine without the vocal.

Neutral Milk Hotel, June 4, 2015

Neutral Milk Hotel’s Seattle show in 2014 sold out in presale, and it made me wonder why he was ever booked at the Neptune in the first place. That theater is tiny for the outsize demand of the band’s show. So I drove down to Portland and stood close to the stage. For the band’s return, I opted for a reserved seat. I knew the set list would be the same, but at least I could be comfortable.

MONO, June 24, 2015

I was hoping to hear more from Rays of Darkness, but the band focused more on The Last Dawn. I’ve seen MONO enough times to know what to expect. I do question people who insist on talking throughout a show, especially when the music gets soft. This one couple couldn’t shut the fuck up, and a guy near me had to ask them to keep it down. They left a few minutes later, probably bored because they couldn’t indulge in their asshole extrovert behavior.

Adams: Shaker Loops, June 27, 2015

I’m sorry to say I can’t remember much about this show, aside from appreciating the fact I’ve heard so much great new music in Seattle since I moved in 2012.

Pärt: Fratres, July 22, 2015

Seattle Chamber Music Festival usually has one or two really adventurous works in the program, but most of what they offer is really safe repertoire. Luckily, the free recital offered before the paid program sometimes offers a gem. Ray Chen really commanded the stage for both the Pärt and Saint-Saens pieces in his free recital. And he’s easy on the eyes.

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, July 29, 2015

No, I don’t think I’ll go to another concert at the zoo again.

Jason Isbell, Aug. 7, 2015

I already went into this concert knowing Jason Isbell was a talented writer and handsome to boot. He’s also one shredder of a guitarist, and he can put on a show.

Duran Duran, Sept. 23, 2015

Even when Duran Duran is on tour to promote a new album, the set list tends to skew toward familiar hits over newer work. Not this time. Six songs from the latest album, Paper Gods, made it into the set, shutting out the previous album completely. It was nice to see John get from behind the bass guitar on a few tracks.

Wayne Horvitz, Oct. 11, 2015

Seattle Symphony, Sonic Evolution, Oct. 29, 2015

Wayne Horvitz premiered his first orchestral work with the Seattle Symphony, and I hate to say it, but it wasn’t the most interesting part of the program. And that’s remarkable because Those Who Remain is part of a larger project inspired by the poetry of Richard Hugo, titled Some Places are Afternoon Forever. Horvitz performed Some Places at the Earshot Jazz Festival with members of his two ensembles, Gravitas Quartet and Sweeter Than the Day. The work navigates deftly between classical instrumentation and jazz improvisation.

Shaprece, however, stole the symphony show with a fascinating blend of R&B, orchestra and international music. The dancers on the stage almost reminded me of Santigold’s SG1.

Danish Quartet, Nov. 4, 2015

I pretty much went to this concert to hear Alfred Schnittke’s String Quartet No. 3 performed live, and I was not disappointed.

Sturgill Simpson, Nov. 13, 2015

Sturgill Simpson has released only two albums, but he filled his set list with a lot of country music history that may or may not have resonated with the audience.

Seattle Symphony, Faure: Requiem, Dec. 5, 2015

I’m writing this entry ahead of this concert, but if the Seattle Symphony’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem is any indication, this Requiem should turn out just as nicely.

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