Death Cab for Cutie Prove Vital as a Trio at Northrop

Categories: Concert Review

Photo By Mark N. Kartarik
Death Cab For Cutie
With the Antlers
Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis
Saturday, May 2, 2015

You could assume that Ben Gibbard is Death Cab for Cutie's only indispensable member, but Saturday's Death Cab concert at Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis showed that departed guitarist Chris Walla has left a six-string-sized hole in the group's stage show.

The indie heroes, newly a three-piece and on the road supporting this year's Kintsugi, brought along two touring musicians -- guitarist Dave Depper and pianist Zac Rae -- to fill the two roles Walla played in the band before exiting on good terms last summer. Sure, Depper had "Why You'd Want to Live Here" down note-for-note, and Rae played "Passenger Seat" beautifully. But it felt slightly awkward when frontman Gibbard wandered over to their side of the stage to jam out for a bar or two -- something he often did with Walla, the 17-year Death Cab veteran.

See Also:
Slideshow: Death Cab For Cutie Rocks Northrop

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Neko Case Slays Some Demons at The Fitzgerald

Photo by Youa Vang
Neko Case 
With Rodrigo Amarante
Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul
Saturday, April 25, 2015

Neko Case never does things halfway. That includes opening her 20-song set at the Fitzgerald Theater on Saturday night with "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu," with the f-bomb laden track giving her fans a direct idea as to how this revealing performance was going to go. Case is the kind of powerful presence who can silence a room by merely opening her mouth to sing, and it was pin-drop quiet more than once during the evening.
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Sufjan Stevens Gets Epic and Emotional at Northrop

Photo By Tony Nelson
Sufjan Stevens
With Little Scream
Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis
April 22, 2015

Occasionally, you go to a show and get completely blindsided by what unfolds in front of you. You expect a decent show with a few flourishes and quirks, maybe, but in the end what you've experienced can really only be described as epic--in the very accurate and not overused sense of that word.

Wednesday night at Northrop Auditorium, Sufjan Stevens and his band put on show so powerful that the fortunate fans in attendance will be talking about it for quite some time to come.

See Also:
Slideshow: Sufjan Stevens Wows Northrop

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There's Music, Too: Coachella Weekend Two Set Reviews

Photo by Timothy Norris
Some say the music is better at Coachella on weekend two. Acts have had time work out technical kinks and refine their set lists, and a crowd less thick with scenesters and industry types responds with greater enthusiasm, upping the energy level all over the polo fields. That certainly seemed to be the case for Lil B, who rebounded from a meandering, freestyle-heavy first weekend with a hits-filled second showing.

How did other acts fare on Coachella's second, hotter (literally -- temps hit 97) weekend? Here are reviews and recaps of some of the most noteworthy sets, from AC/DC, Azealia Banks, Axwell /\ Ingrosso and more.

See Also:
Coachella Weekend One Set Reviews
You're Never Too Old For Coachella

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Twin Shadow Outshone By Lightshow at First Avenue

Photo By Anna Gulbrandsen
Twin Shadow First Avenue, Minneapolis April 13, 2015

Sometimes a band gets a show off to a rough start simply because they've had an off day, or a missed note snowballs to become something a little worse. But sometimes that rough start is a harbinger of what's to come from the rest of the performance.

Monday night's Twin Shadow show at First Avenue proved to be firmly in the latter camp, unfortunately. While there were a few bright spots luminous enough to keep the show from going down in flames, overall, the set was lifeless and at points so meandering that it was difficult to discern what was going on.

See Also:
Twin Shadow Brings Sexy Back to Minneapolis

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Coachella Weekend One Set Reviews

Photo by Timothy Norris
FKA Twigs
Contrary to what you might have heard, Coachella is more than just a fashion parade for B-list celebrities and trust fund kids. It also still features music! Here are reviews and recaps of some of the first weekend's most memorable sets, from Jack White, Run the Jewels, FKA Twigs, Steely Dan, Tame Impala and more.

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Slideshow: Hot Festival Fashion at Coachella

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Neil Diamond Takes Fans Down Melody Road During St. Paul Show

Categories: Concert Review
Photo By Tony Nelson

Most artists don't have the luxury of entering the stage from an object that shares their name. So who could blame Neil Diamond for revealing himself to the Xcel Energy Center by walking out of a giant digital diamond?

Of course, the 74-year-old pop radio icon could have emerged from any type of mineral and still been treated like a god by the 13,000 believers that all but sold out St. Paul's arena Sunday night. He can't quite do four nights in a row anymore (like he did at the Met Center in 1984 and 1989), but on Sunday he proved that one evening filled with his hits is enough to satisfy.

See Also:
Slideshow: Neil Diamond Wows the Xcel

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Father John Misty Preaches to the Converted at First Avenue

Categories: Concert Review
Photo By Tony Nelson

Father John Misty
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Saturday, April 4, 2015

Acid trips will blur the borders of your identity. So will falling in love. Josh Tillman claims that his alter ego Father John Misty, an expansively mythological projection of his own doubt-hobbled self-aggrandizement, was the residue of a lysergic epiphany. And then last year, Tillman married his wife Emma, spurring I Love You, Honeybear, an autobiographical SweeTart of a musical valentine in which person and persona shadowbox for preeminence. But wherever Tillman ends and Misty begins, Saturday night's sold-out First-Avenue performance demonstrated that one or both of those guys is a helluva showman.

See Also:
Slideshow: Father John Misty Rocks First Avenue

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Stevie Wonder Gives You More Than You Ever Knew You Wanted

Categories: Concert Review
Press photo

Stevie Wonder
Target Center, Minneapolis
Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stevie Wonder was in no rush. It had been 27 years since he'd last performed in the Twin Cities, after all, and anyway we were gonna be here all night -- or at least till nearly midnight. Guided by R&B singer India.Arie (a woman of many dazzling outfits, as we would come to learn over the next three hours), the 64-year-old singer arrived onstage nearly a half-hour behind schedule. And still, he took the time to speak at length about the importance of love and to inveigh against hatred, which he called a way of "blocking your blessing" from God.

Probably no other living musician has the grace and moral authority to talk that way without coming off as a cornball or a blowhard. Yet Wonder's invocation was not just touching -- it was an ideal introduction to "Love's in Need of Love Today," the opening track from his 1976 double-LP Songs in the Key of Life, which he was in town to play in its entirety. (Including each of the four songs from the bonus seven-inch EP that accompanied the album's original release.)

Like that best-selling classic recording itself, the live performance didn't simply justify its excesses but rendered them essential, expressing the star's boundless creativity and insisting that an inexhaustible abundance of joy exists in the world for anyone willing to seek it.

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Earl Sweatshirt Solidified His Cult of Personality at Mill City Nights

Photo By Adam Degross
Earl Sweatshirt 
Mill City Nights, Minneapolis
Friday, March 27, 2015

"I'm OK with being more self-centered now," Earl Sweatshirt told NPR's Microphone Check last week. "How ever important you treat yourself is how everyone's going to treat you."

It was evident the Odd Future representative was living that maxim as he took the stage at Mill City Nights on Friday night, exuding the confidence and arrogance of a young despot. Sweatshirt was performing in support of his sophomore album, I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, a release that his label famously fucked up. The 21-year-old rapper had unminced words for his label, releasing a diatribe against Columbia that a Doris-era Sweat might not've been self-centered (or self-assured) enough to take public.

But we're dealing with a new Earl now, one who's out to assert his art on his own terms. I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside was conceived in isolation that allowed Sweatshirt to free his music of outside influences (as much as that is possible), and his Minneapolis show was a coming out party for his newly born cult of personality.

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