Haley Bonar at Varsity Theater, 5/16/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo By Mark N. Kartarik

Haley Bonar
With Anonymous Choir and DJ Shannon Blowtorch
Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
May 16, 2014

On one of the most crowded local music weekends in the Twin Cities in recent memory, Haley Bonar filled the Varsity Theater with fans, friends, and family on Friday night for her record release show. Everyone turned up to hear Bonar and her talented four-piece backing band bring life to the stirring songs on Last War along with her tender older numbers. During Bonar's emotional 65-minute set, she proved once again that she is among the best songwriters in the current music scene.

See also:
Slideshow: Haley Bonar wows the Varsity Theater

The group took to the stage with Queens of the Stone Age's raucous anthem to druggy excess, "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," appropriate enough since many of Bonar's new songs should become favorites of their own, no matter the season. The show started with "Kill the Fun," which did anything but, and got the set off to an assured start. Bonar spent the set alternating between acoustic and electric guitars with a short stint behind a keyboard. She was flanked by Jake Hanson on electric guitar, his brother Jeremy on drums, Rob Skoro on bass, and Kate Murray on keys. The band was tight and polished throughout the set, providing a lush, spirited edge to Bonar's rollicking new numbers.

"No Sensitive Man" built gradually to a raucous finish, with Bonar losing herself in the chorus while the upbeat arrangement swelled to match her passionate delivery. "Heaven's Made For Two" was an acoustic-driven reflective number that featured gorgeous harmonies of Bonar and Murray that eventually gave way to a cacophonous outro that was driven by the Hanson brothers' lively sonic flourishes. Bonar strapped on an electric guitar of her own for a moody, atmospheric run through of the title track, one of the freshest singles to emerge out of the Twin Cities music scene in quite some time.

Photos By Mark N. Kartarik

While the songs on Last War clearly have more of a potent kick than Bonar's past work, she still reveals a series of unguarded emotions through her sincere lyrics that always manage to shine through, no matter the din building up around them. Those delicate sentiments clearly have an effect on Bonar, as she sang many of the songs with her eyes closed tight, adrift in the lingering poignancy of her songs. Haley took to the keys on lovely version of "From A Cage" and the smoldering "Ransom," locking in with Murray on both the arrangements and their vocal harmonies. The subtle psychedelia of "Ransom" blended smoothly into the free-form jazz-like intro of "Leo," which gradually blossomed into the instrumental's touching melody.

A string of Golder songs really gave the second half of the set a heartfelt resonance, as Alt-country drenched versions of "Candy Machine Gun," "Raggedy Man," "Silver Zephyrs," and "A Piano" all took on an evocative elegance due to the group's textured, studied arrangements. Bonar clearly relished having these talented musicians by her side, as she exclaimed appreciatively towards the end of the set, "I love playing with this band! It's so much fun."

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