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Unplugged: 2016 dotted with outstanding, memorable performances

  • T. Hardy Morris
 

Unplugged: 2016 dotted with outstanding, memorable performances

20 Dec 2016

One of my favorite musical performances of 2016 was way back in early January.

MusicFile Productions, parent company of Savannah Stopover, brought T. Hardy Morris and his band The Hardknocks down from Athens for a show at The Jinx.

The older I get, the more I appreciate shows like that one. I think Morris is one of the most important young figures in the big world of southern rock. I had seen him enough to know that he’d be on his game, but the set was even better than I hoped, in part because of the intimacy of the space.

As I look back at the long list of shows I attended in 2016, my eyes return again and again to the ones that I expected to be awesome but turned out to be even better than anticipated for one reason or another.

I had been listening to a lot of Rokia Traoré early in the year, but the Malian singer’s performance at Trustees Theater during the Savannah Music Festival blew me away. What a rock star.

I had a similar if not quite so extreme reaction to Andrew Bird’s SMF performance at the Lucas Theatre. He’s one of the most versatile musicians and most interesting songwriters around, but the live show was virtuosic.

By day, Jenny Woodruff is the education director of the SMF, and I knew she had a strong performance background, but nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of her Joni Mitchell tribute, which was part of the summer cabaret series at the Lucas.

I was similarly wowed by Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s Savannah Stopover set at Trinity United Methodist Church. Who expected so many emotional young fans who knew every single lyric?

I wrote a short preview of guitarist Richard Leo Johnson’s 2016 recital in the courtyard of Galerie 124, so I knew it would be good, but Johnson’s creative process seems to reveal new layers of meaning at every turn.

Wreckless Eric’s stirring set at Congress Street Social Club — another MusicFile show — surprised me for different reasons. The longtime British pop star’s songs about the sprawling mess of American culture managed to be both upbeat and bitter.

I could go on and on about similar performances, like the Dad Joke production of the performance artist and singer David Liebe Hart at The Jinx, COEDS’ release show for their great new record “Thrill Me!” and The Casket Girls’ tour kickoff at the new Graveface Records annex.

We’re lucky to have so many venues, promoters, festivals and musicians who aspire to excellence. I hope more Savannahians will resolve to support such efforts more regularly in 2017.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email billdawers@comcast.net.

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