The arts in 2015: A robust year for pop music in the Berkshires

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PITTSFIELD — We leave a robust pop music scene as 2015 expires. From the lyrical majesty of Don McLean to the Bo Diddley-esque beat of George Thorogood, it was a very good year, to quote Frank Sinatra, who would have been 100 years old this year.

Speaking of ol' Blue Eyes, homage must be paid to, with little argument, the most eclectic — yet successful — duet of the past 12 months: The team of Tony Bennett (a Sinatra contemporary) and Lady Gaga at Tanglewood this summer.

Essentially, of course, we saw two solid professionals ply their craft. But the reality was that we saw a pretty seamless blend of a '40s saloon singer and a 21st century pop diva with lovely results.

The Colonial Theatre gave a gamut of strong pop performers, including a thunderous evening with Thorogood on a wintry February night. Lonesome George also provided one of the more unique moments of the past year by inviting your correspondent to the foot of the stage and confiscating his notebook. When I asked Thorogood how he expected me to remember his set for the review, he said, "Remember it? I'll make sure you never forget it!"

And he did.

Folkies got their fill at the Colonial as the timeless New Christy Minstrels and the Kingston Trio brought their sweet harmonies to Pittafield. And in December, The Weight, featuring former members of The Band, brought their folk-rock-blues menu to the Colonial and showed their audience what greatness was.

The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center had a triple-threat fall season, with McLean, Graham Nash and Art Garfunkel performing. All three were superb, but kudos to Artie for delivering a strong show in the wake of the temporary loss of his voice four years ago.

Smaller venues, which I admittedly often overlook, presented their share of great shows. We saw the already iconic Arlo Guthrie entertain audiences at the Guthrie Center in the wake of the 50th anniversary of "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," a timeless tale of, well, littering and district court.

Guthrie also performed at the Colonial in a sold-out show this past summer that was later broadcast on PBS on Thanksgiving.

Up north, the programmers at Mass MoCA continue to delight and amaze the fans of superior contemporary music. The FreshGrass Festival is, hands down, the finest bluegrass extravaganza in the Northeast and one of the best in the country.

This year's Solid Sound Festival at MoCA was another great presentation, despite some nasty late-summer weather.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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