Caroline Smith at First Avenue, 9/27/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo By Mark Kartarik

Caroline Smith
With Solid Gold and Toki Wright & Big Cats
First Avenue, Minneapolis
September 27, 2013

As the screen in front of the First Avenue stage lifted to reveal Caroline Smith and her sprawling five-piece backing band and two backup vocalists, the winsome singer/songwriter took one look at the packed house gathered to celebrate her record release and exclaimed astonishingly, "What the fuck?" fully taken aback by the outpouring of support the local scene showed her on Friday night.

It seemed that everyone wanted to witness the full transformation that Smith and her songs have taken over the course of the past couple of years, as she has given her plaintive, acoustic-laden folk music a rich, soulful twist on her new album, Half About Being A Woman. Those throwback, doo-wop-laden songs were the clear highlights and focus of Smith's stirring 65-minute, encoreless set, as the crowd swayed and swooned along to Caroline's assured and audacious new sonic direction.

See Also: Slideshow: Caroline Smith at First Avenue, 9/27/13

The show burst out of the gates with Smith's catchy new single, "Magazine," as Jake Hanson -- who produced Half About Being a Woman -- provided a vibrant guitar riff that gave the song an added bounce. Throughout the entire performance, everyone on stage had broad smiles plastered on their faces -- as did a majority of the crowd as well -- completely swept up in the buoyant, sultry nature of the songs themselves as well as the tremendous turnout on a night where modern Minnesota music proudly took center stage.

"If you've got your baby here with you, tell them that you love them," Smith instructed the crowd coquettishly while introducing her smooth new R&B number, "All That I Know Is (I'm Your Baby)." "I've got my mom here. I love my mom." And Smith's unguarded, congenial tone permeated her songs as well as the performance, as she instantly connected with her passionate fans, friends, and family who filled the club.

Photos By Mark Kartarik

In addition to Hanson, who served double-duty after also playing with openers Solid Gold, the rest of the band was comprised of Smith's longtime bassist Jesse Schuster and drummer Arlen Arlen Peiffer, along with keyboardists Charlie Smith and Tickle Torture's Elliott Kozel, and backup vocalists Hannah von der Hoff and Ayo Awosika, who all helped add a rich, full sound to Smith's bold new songs.

Occasionally, that robust new sound proved to be a bit too overwhelming, as the thunderous bass, which was heavy in the mix all night, dominated lighter numbers like "Tanktop" and "Calliope," as the rumbling low end robbed the simple pop numbers of their natural ebullience. But the bass-heavy, textured arrangements perfectly suited the new material, and Smith and her band delivered exquisite takes on all nine of the album's tracks throughout the well-paced set.

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