The critical list
by Seth Rogovoy
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., March 11, 2003) Ė One of the questions I get asked most often is who I would like to see perform in the Berkshires. Itís a question I rarely if ever answer, not wanting my personal wishes to have any effect on what local venues or concert series decide to program. But once every year or two, I like to let fantasy fly and publish a list of the artists Iíd like to see perform in the Berkshires. This way everyone gets to see the list, and itís fair game for all.
At the top of my list are two of my all-time favorite artists, neither of whom Iíve ever seen perform an entire concert. I saw Lou Reed perform one song at the Bob Dylan 30th anniversary tribute concert, but that hardly counts. Randy Newman, who these days is more popular for his film scores than for his excellent recordings, almost made it to the Berkshires back when the National Music Foundation booked him and subsequently cancelled the show for lack of knowing what to do next. I still have the interview I conducted with Newman for that show, but Iíve never had the opportunity to write it up and publish it. So make me a happy man and bring Reed and Newman to the Berkshires.
Now that Tanglewood has opened the door once again to rock, albeit of the geriatric variety, with the August 12 date for Jethro Tull, how about bringing back those other Tanglewood veterans, the Who, to the Shed? And while theyíre at it, itís time once again for Bob Dylan to return to Tanglewood Ė or better yet, for an outdoor concert at Butternut Basin, followed by a surprise, late-night show at Club Helsinki (look for flyers touting ďBlind Boy GruntĒ). Other Shed stompers who might not be too rowdy for Tanglewood but might appeal to some folks under 65 are Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Tom Waits and Steely Dan.
Other artists who have been touring lately or are planning tours and who should be seen in this neck of the woods are Elvis Costello, Moby, India Arie and Norah Jones. Also, Ray Davies, Annie Lennox, Alison Krauss, the Flaming Lips, Mark Knopfler, the Strokes, the White Stripes and Black 47. And Mia Doi Todd, the Folk Implosion, Kathleen Edwards, Mike Doughty, David Johansen and the Harry Smiths, Polygraph Lounge, Amy Correia, Jonatha Brooke, Jennifer Kimball, Richard Thompson. Or Wilco, Shelby Lynne, Peter Himmelman, Steve Earle, the Pretenders, Paul Weller, the Stone Coyotes and the Lonesome Brothers. And Massive Attack, Finley Quaye, Everclear, Yo La Tengo, the Donnas, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mr. Bungle and Aphex Twin.
We never get enough jazz in the Berkshires, and we definitely never get enough creative or avant-garde jazz. Do we have to wait 20 years before trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist John Zorn are showcased at one of the area festivals in what will by then be a nostalgic look back at the future of the jazz? What about Roy Nathanson and the Jazz Passengers, Anthony Coleman, the Bad Plus, and Uri Caine? Or Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, Wayne Shorter and Elliott Sharp? And Jamie Saft, Steven Bernsteinís Millennial Territory Orchestra, Masada, Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, Susie Ibarra, Zeena Parkins, Jewlia Eisenberg, Bill Laswell, Ikue Mori, Guy Klucevsek, Mark Feldman, Ben Perowsky, Jenny Scheinman, Tim Sparks, Yuka Honda and Jim Staley.
A few years ago, you couldnít help but stumble upon a klezmer band up and down the county, and every one of those shows was a sellout. What happened? Do I have to write a sequel to ďThe Essential KlezmerĒ to get someone to book another klezmer concert? Klezmer shows are still likely sellouts. How about bringing some of the neo-traditional groups, like Khevrisa, the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble and Di Naye Kapelye, or a few of the more avant-garde bands, like Naftuleís Dream, Hasidic New Wave and Diaspora Soul? It would be great to see the all-female Yiddish vocal and instrumental ensemble, Mikveh, or to witness the incredible fusion of 19th-century shtetl culture and rap music purveyed by the Hip Hop Khasene, or the fusion of 21st-century Latino-Jewish culture as portrayed by Hip Hop Hoodios. And donít overlook one of a number of terrific Sephardic music groups, including Alhambra, Divahn, and the Sons of Sepharad Ė the latter sort of the Jewish version of the Three Tenors.
The landscape for live popular music in the Berkshires has arguably never been better than it is right now. All the more reason to grow the scene, and to continue to experiment by challenging audiences and attracting new ones. Itís no time to lose steam.
It hurts, of course, that all three of our old theaters Ė the Mohawk in North Adams, the Colonial in Pittsfield and the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington Ė are in various stages of repair, disrepair and renovation, and that for the time being they arenít available for concerts. But even once they are on line, what is critically needed in the Berkshires is a year-round venue that can seat about 2,500 or 3,000 concertgoers. Thatís the only way weíre ever going to see many of the artists on this list -- but itís fun to fantasize, anyway.
Who would you like to see perform in the Berkshires? Email your wish-lists to firstname.lastname@example.org and Iíll publish them in an upcoming column.
[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on March 14, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]
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