Soundoff: A look back at 15 memorable shows of 2022
After two years of the pandemic, the live music scene rebounded in 2022, with lots of great shows in Ithaca and around Central New York. Though I’m still not going out nearly as much as I did before covid, I did manage to catch some cool concerts throughout the year. Here’s a look back at the best of them, listed in chronological order.
March 13, The Psychedelic Furs, State Theatre, Ithaca – Returning to Ithaca for the first time since 1990, the P-Furs showed that they’re still a vital force, performing songs off their excellent new album “Made of Rain” along with a bunch of hits – “Pretty in Pink,” “Heaven,” “Heartbreak Beat,” and many more – all sung by one of the most distinctive vocalists of the past 40 years, Richard Butler.
April 3, DakhaBrakha, State Theatre, Ithaca – With a couple of recent visits to our area, the four members of DakhaBrakha have become familiar faces to concertgoers. But this show, coming soon after the Russian invasion of the band’s native Ukraine, made this show especially memorable, both musically and emotionally. (Catch them again at the State Theatre on March 5, 2023!)
April 12, Big Thief, State Theatre, Ithaca – After playing the now-defunct Haunt twice (including one Ithaca Underground show they didn’t even headline!), Big Thief returned to play a sold-out show at the venerable State to promote their new double album, “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You.” The band – Adrianne Lenker, Max Oleartchik, Buck Meek, and James Krivchenia – displayed some impressive musicianship and an expanded sonic palette throughout the show.
April 28 & 30, Jawbreaker and the Linda Lindas, Irving Plaza, New York City – Thanks to my younger and cooler wife, Sara Perkins, I’ve begun moving some bands out of the “I haven’t heard them, but I’ve heard OF them” category. A case in point is Jawbreaker, which has been together since the 1990s but has only toured sporadically in recent years. We caught a couple of their sold-out shows in NYC this spring (along with a case of covid that delayed our wedding two weeks!) in which Blake Schwarzenbach and company showcased the cream of the band’s deep discography. As a bonus, The Linda Lindas, the up-and-coming Los Angeles punk quartet played on both shows and impressed with their enthusiasm and showmanship. And to round it out, Worriers opened one show and Shell Shag opened the other, and it was great to see both bands on a big stage after their more intimate Ithaca gigs.
April 29, The Smithereens with Marshall Crenshaw and Robin Wilson, Sony Hall, New York City – After frontman Pat DiNizio died in 2017, the Smithereens carried on with Marshall Crenshaw and Gin Blossoms singer Robin Wilson alternating as lead vocalist from show to show. But for this concert, they both were on stage, and traded off throughout the evening on pretty much every great Smithereens song: “Blood and Roses,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” “Blues Before and After,” “A Girl Like You.” As a bonus, Wilson and Crenshaw kicked off the encore with “Til I Hear It From You,” which they co-wrote for Gin Blossoms in the 1990s.
June 4, Paul McCartney, JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse – After listening to the Beatles for almost my entire life, it was great to finally see one of them in person. Just weeks from his 80th birthday, McCartney and his longtime band rolled through nearly three hours of hits from throughout his long career. And thanks to technology developed during the production of the “Get Back” documentary, he sang a virtual duet with John Lennon on “I’ve Got a Feeling” during the encore that was especially touching.
June 10, The War on Drugs, Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards, LaFayette. In the decade since the band’s club shows in Ithaca, singer-guitarist Adam Granduciel and company have evolved into one of the most impressive indie-rock bands around, with their latest album, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore,” being especially strong in its arrangements and guitar solos.
June 14, Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets, Center for the Arts, Homer – It was great to see one of my favorites since the late 1970s return to Central New York with a full band (he played solo at the Hangar Theatre a few years ago). And when that band is Los Straitjackets, the masked instrumental quartet that can play just about anything rock ‘n’ roll, you know you’ll be in for a great show. Lowe played most of his most popular songs – “Cruel to be Kind,” “So It Goes,” “Heart of the City” – along with some new songs such as “Tokyo Rose” that also were really good. And Los Straitjackets got to play a mini-set of their own midway through the show that showcased their musical virtuosity.
July 10, The Rods, Night Owls, Cortland – After a pandemic-induced hiatus, Dio Day returned to Cortland to honor the 80th birthday of the late Ronnie James, the Cortland native recognized as one of the greatest hard-rock and heavy-metal singers. The all-day concert featured several top area bands, including the Rods, who were playing their first local show in seven years. Fronted by David “Rock” Feinstein (Dio’s cousin and former Elf bandmate), the band charged through some of its trademark rockers, including a few from its stellar 2019 album, “Brotherhood of Metal.”
July 12, Death Cab for Cutie, Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards, LaFayette – This is another band I credit my wife for helping me to become more familiar with (though I did see them at Cornell in 2006). Ben Gibbard and bandmates played a great show, with songs from their new album, “Asphalt Meadows,” sitting along favorites such as “Crooked Teeth,” “Cath,” “Soul Meets Body,” and many more. (This was probably my favorite show of 2022 if I had to pick just one.)
July 23, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, GrassRoots Festival, Trumansburg – After a couple of recent visits to the Center for the Arts, Marty Stuart, who’s one of my all-time favorites country artists finally made it to Tompkins County, playing a high-energy set on the Grandstand that included a few hits, gospel and surf tunes, and some cool covers (“I Know You Rider,” “Psychotic Reaction”) with the help of his great band: drummer Harry Stinson, guitarist Kenny Vaughan, and bassist Chris Scruggs. And this time they came armed with electric guitars, including the famous Telecaster formerly owned by the legendary Clarence White.
Aug. 14, Courtney Barnett, Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards, LaFayette – This was the show I was most looking forward to this year – I’ve been a big fan since her 2015 debut album but had never seen her – and it really delivered, with the Australian singer-songwriter headlining her own Here and There Festival, which also included Faye Webster, Hana Vu, and Snail Mail (who I was also glad to finally see after missing her previous Ithaca shows). New songs such as “Rae Street” and “Write a List of Things to Look Forward To,” both from her latest album “Things Take Time, Take Time” more than held their own against older classics such as “Depreston,” “Avant Gardner,” and “Pedestrian at Best,” with Webster coming out to guest on “An Illustration of Loneliness.”
Sept. 9, Dinosaur Jr., State Theatre, Ithaca – Finally making it back to Ithaca after twice postponing their show, J. Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph unleashed their deafening sound on Ithacans, making them “Feel the Pain” (pun intended; my face actually hurt from standing in front of J’s Marshall stacks) while mixing other classics such as “Start Chopping” and “Wagon” in with songs from the new album “Sweep It Into Space” along with a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”
Sept. 23, Gary Clark Jr. and The Bluebonnets, State Theatre, Ithaca – The Texas singer-guitarist made his long-awaited Ithaca debut, captivating the crowd with his fiery soloing and blend of blues, soul, and rock influences amply displayed on his albums, including the new “This Land.” Just as good were the Bluebonnets, the Austin-based garage-rock band that includes Kathy Valentine of the GoGos; they played a rockin’ opening set that really won over the audience.
Nov. 19, Will Sheff, Colony, Woodstock – This was another show we saw at Sara’s behest, as she’s a longtime Okkervil River fan. Sheff played tunes from that band as well as from his new solo album, “Nothing Special,” with the help of his excellent band, including guitarist Will Sheff, who unleashed an epic solo on “The Spiral Season.” It was enough to make me not regret missing the Daryl Hall solo show that same night in Syracuse.
Feb. 11, Howard Jones, Hangar Theatre, Ithaca
April 6, Bela Fleck, State Theatre, Ithaca
April 24, Lindsey Buckingham, State Theatre, Ithaca
June 15, Tommy Stinson, Six Mile Creek Vineyard, Ithaca
July 21-24, The Campbell Brothers, Donna the Buffalo, Mary Lorson and Billy Cote, Jim Lauderdale, and many others, GrassRoots Festival, Trumansburg
Aug. 23, Wilco, Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards, LaFayette
Dec. 9, Blackberry Smoke, State Theatre, Ithaca
Dec. 10, The Sutras, Deep Dive, Ithaca
Some shows I missed that I wished I saw
State Theatre: Joe Jackson, Ani DiFranco, Valerie June, Lucy Dacus, They Might Be Giants, Trampled By Turtles
Hangar Theatre: Josh Ritter, Langhorne Slim, Jonathan Richman, Todd Snider, Eilen Jewell
Center for the Arts: Adrian Belew, Suzanne Vega, John Jorgenson, Amanda Shires, Glenn Tilbrook, Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey, Kathleen Edwards, Deer Tick, The Wallflowers, Rickie Lee Jones, Milk Carton Kids
Ithaca Night Bazaar: Jimkata, Mikaela Davis, MJT, The Comb Down
Beak and Skiff: Gov’t Mule, the Decemberists, Phil Lesh, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, Primus, Head and the Heart
I also didn’t make it to the New York State Fair, St. Joe’s Lakeview Amphitheater, CMAC, Point of the Bluff Vineyards, Brewery Ommegang, or The L this year, though all of those venues had some great shows throughout 2022. And I passed on a lot of cool indoor club shows in Ithaca, Cortland, and Syracuse, mainly due to still being a bit covid-cautious. But it was great to see some new venues open around the area, especially Deep Dive, that are providing more places for local, regional, and national bands to perform. Now we just need the Haunt to reopen!
With luck, we’ll have even more great shows to catch in the coming year, both locally and around the region. Happy New Year, and here’s to a great year of live music in 2023!