By John W. Barry
When I look back on 2018 with a musical perspective, the first thing that comes to mind is the harp.
I’m not talking about the slang term for a harmonica. I’m referring to the stringed instrument that is closely associated with Ireland, angels and mermaids.
On Nov. 8 I embarked on a glorious overnight road trip to Syracuse to see former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir perform at the Landmark Theatre. The show offered plenty of familiar territory, with Weir serving up songs from his solo catalog and years with the Grateful Dead.
But the standout moment for me came when Weir welcomed harpist Mikaela Davis on stage to sit in with him, bass player Don Was and drummer Jay Lane. I was skeptical, but Davis rocked hard on that harp and pushed a fearless musician like Weir deep into uncharted territory.
That was a night I won’t soon forget and, thank you Mikaela Davis for expanding my musical horizons.
This past year was full of musical highlights.
Ringo Starr delivered as usual when he played with his All Starr Band at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in September. Steve Lukather of Toto led the band on a driving version of “Africa” and Colin Hay of Men At Work dazzled the crowd with “Overkill, “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now?”
What’s to say about Ringo Starr? Plenty, starting with the fact that he’s, well, Ringo Starr.
I’d like to thank Phil Lesh and his son Grahame for introducing me to the band Twiddle. Twiddle in July joined The Terrapin Family Band and Midnight North at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock. Grahame Lesh plays in Midnight North and both Leshes play in the Terrapin Family Band.
Check out Twiddle if you can. The musical dynamic, chemistry, stage presence and raw energy all knocked my socks off.
I wasn’t able to make any of these shows, but bravo to Woodstock musician Connor Kennedy for sitting in multiple times with Steely Dan.
Kennedy, who previously toured with Bard College graduate and Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen, sat in with Steely Dan at SPAC in June; Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in July; and the Beacon Theatre in October.
One show I was able to make (and I am so glad I did because it was life-changing) was David Byrne of Talking Heads fame in Kingston in March.
I’ve always loved the Talking Heads, but have never been a big fan. Hearing Byrne perform “Once in a Lifetime” at the Broadway Theater at Ulster Performing Arts Center shook my bones hard. When the show ended, I could have sat through it all over again. It was that good.
Seeing Woodstock musician Simi Stone perform with Byrne for her Hudson Valley neighbors enhanced the entire experience. And bravo to Stone for getting the biggest cheers of the night.
Thanks, 2018, for a wonderful year in music. And thanks to everyone, on stage and behind the scenes, for making it all happen. I will see you in the new year for sure. Rock on, Hudson Valley.