Hozier's Twin Cities Debut Was Soulful, But Rigid

Categories: Concert Review
Photo by Tony Nelson
Hozier at First Avenue.

with Ásgeir
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, February 20, 2015

Hozier's show this past weekend sold out before his debut self-titled album even dropped. Five months ago, his ubiquitous single "Take Me to Church" rose from Current chart darling to Fury/Beats spokestheme to LGBT rallying cry to most played song on your mom's barre playlist in a matter of weeks. Many have already pegged the 24-year-old Irish crooner as a music industry stayer rather than a passing fancy.

The Grammy-nominated singer's ticket sales are assuring, but it's still undecided whether Hozier is trending more toward Lorde or Gotye. The rookie's first trip to the Twin Cities seems to suggest the latter.

See also:
Slideshow: Hozier Rocks First Avenue

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Sey What? Seinabo Sey Is Soul's Millennial Voice

Categories: Concert Review
Photo by Alex Rice
Seinabo Sey stopped in Minneapolis as part of a quick U.S. tour.

Seinabo Sey
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
Thursday, January 29, 2015

The world is about to fall in love with Seinabo Sey. Sey's impressively soulful vocal chops have reminded many of Adele, while the electropop she crafts has been likened to that of fellow Swede Tove Lo. Neither of those comparisons were off-base Thursday night, but it was hard not to think of a whole pantheon of R&B greats with voices that just wouldn't quit.

The 24-year-old is in the middle of a five-city, cross-country promotional jaunt for debut EP For Madeleine, which was re-released in the U.S. this week. She performed all five songs from the EP, with "Younger" and "Hard Time" receiving plenty of cheers of recognition late in the set.

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Sam Smith Was Far More Than a Sad Poet at Roy Wilkins

Categories: Concert Review
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Sam "Stay With Me" Smith

Sam Smith
Roy Wilkins Auditorium, St. Paul
Saturday, January 24, 2015

They screamed when there was a chance he might finally be arriving onstage. They screamed when the songs playing over the P.A. faded out. They screamed when those sitting on either side of Roy Wilkins Auditorium saw that he actually was walking onto the stage. They screamed when he opened with a deep cut. They screamed when a curtain dropped to reveal another drape adorned with his face. They screamed when that second curtain dropped to reveal his actual face.They screamed as the ridiculously tall riser lowered him down to Earth. They screamed when he went into his first falsetto. Of course, they screamed loudest when he name-checked St. Paul.

In some spots, the sound was as deafening as My Bloody Valentine's jet-engine-decibel-reaching 2013 gig in the same room. This time, though, it was all the ticket-buyers' doing.

See also:
Slideshow: Sam Smith Woos Fans at Roy Wilkins

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The Current's 10th Anniversary Kicked Off In Style With Cold War Kids

Photo by Mark N. Kartarik
Cold War Kids frontman Nathan Willet got fierce for the occasion.

The Current's 10th Anniversary, Night One
Featuring Cold War Kids, Dead Man Winter, Hippo Campus and Allan Kingdom
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, January 23, 2015

Booking Billy Idol for the Turf Club wasn't the only sign that 89.3 The Current was going all-out for its week of 10th Birthday Party festivities. The taste-making local radio station also sprang for a national act, California indie rock group Cold War Kids to headline the first night of its annual First Avenue birthday bash.

The mainroom birthday show began when the Current turned five years old in January 2010 (P.O.S., Mason Jennings and other Minnesota music heavyweights were featured on the bill) and eventually turned into a two-night affair. The birthday party has grown in popularity and size in the past half-decade, but had exclusively sported local musicians until Cold War Kids' set Friday night. The Current clearly isn't hanging this event up to dry anytime soon.

See also:
Slideshow: Rocking Out at the Current's 10th Birthday: Night One

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Fleetwood Mac at Xcel: Three Hours of Big Love

Categories: Concert Review
Steven Cohen
Fleetwood Mac rock the Xcel

Fleetwood Mac
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Friday, January 16, 2015

It can be a gamble to see performers long after their initial debut -- especially decades later. Sometimes it's best to just remember the past and not relive it with old rockers that suddenly remind you of your own age.

This is the problem my dad had when I invited him along with me to Fleetwood Mac's show at the Xcel over the weekend. Despite my protests -- "But dad! Springsteen, the Stones, hell, even Paul McCartney still put on ridiculously good shows, and they're way older than you are" -- I was convinced I'd be initiating myself to Fleetwood Mac for the first time by myself.

Eventually, my dad caved and decided to live a little.

See also:
Slideshow: Fleetwood Mac Rock the Xcel Energy Center

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The 12 Rods Reunion Show: It's Complicated

Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

12 Rods
With Rupert Angeleyes
First Avenue, Minneapolis
January 16, 2015

After signing to a major label, 12 Rods never quite had the breakout national success that they seemed destined for. They eventually broke up, and have been inactive, but influential, for years. On Friday night, the sprawling band (with nine various members joining in throughout the two-hour set) reunited for their first show in 10 years, celebrating the re-release of their 2002 album, Lost Time, on Justin Vernon's Chigliak Records imprint.

Vacillating between anthems laced with dissatisfaction and meandering electro-tinged pop, the enjoyable but uneven performance was a snapshot of 12 Rods' entire career. Local music fans still hold tightly to these songs, as evidenced by the large turnout. For one night, at least, 12 Rods clearly got their due.

See also:
Slideshow: 12 Rods Reunite at First Avenue

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First Avenue's Best New Bands Represented the Twin Cities' Bold Future

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
PaviElle getting it done and then some at Best New Bands.

Best New Bands of 2014
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Saturday, January 17, 2015

So many story lines, songs, and artistic promise were packed into First Avenue's five-hour Best New Bands showcase Saturday night. Hippo Campus, PaviElle, and Sam Cassidy represented voices that are just starting to be heard by larger numbers, but Suzie, Warey, Tiny Deaths, and ZuluZuluu all featured lead vocalists with familiar faces -- albeit for different projects.

Official numbers aren't yet in as to which acts brought the most friends and family members along to cheer them on, but only one artist came to the gig with actual cheerleaders.

See also:
Slideshow: Best New Bands 2014 Rock First Avenue

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Girl Germs Tribute Proves Contagious at Turf Club

Photo by Mark N. Kartarik
Kitten Forever reinvented Beyoncé in their own image on Saturday.

Girl Germs: A Tribute to Women in Music
With Aby Wolf, Alpha Consumer (feat. Debbie Duncan), Kitten Forever, K. Raydio, and Yoni Yum
Turf Club, St. Paul
Saturday, January 10, 2015

The test of a good tribute show comes down to how deep the connection the artists can forge with the material they're playing. When it's good, it's unspeakably good. When it's bad, you're better off hanging out at Vegas Lounge karaoke. 

Like the last Girl Germs event held this past May at First Ave, organizers Dana Raidt and Sally Hedberg built a night with enough variety to pull fans of divergent genres spanning different eras. On paper, the allure of hearing Kate Bush, Erykah Badu, Marianne Faithfull, Aretha Franklin, and Beyoncé songs mashed up on a bill was unquestionable. Bringing the drama, soul, and potent commentary would prove to be an even greater challenge for the musicians themselves -- like riding above the wave of a male-dominated music industry on a surfbort. Yes, a surfbort. 

See also:
Slideshow: Girl Germs Women in Rock Tribute Takes Over the Turf Club

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Julian Casablancas + the Voidz at First Avenue, 11/17/14


Julian Casablancas + the Voidz
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Monday, November 17, 2014

If Julian Casablancas wanted to take the easy route, he would just headline festivals with the band that made him famous.

It also would have been easier for the 36-year-old singer to follow up his first solo album with more danceable synth pop, rather than the abrasive noise rock of this year's Tyranny. He then could have built a tour around Strokes hits plus his more-accessible solo material and let everyone in the crowd go home happy. See where this is going?

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Slowdive at Fine Line Music Cafe, 10/31/14

Photo by Mark N Kartarik

Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
Friday, October 31, 2014

Seeing on the internet that English shoegaze act Slowdive had sold out downtown Minneapolis's Fine Line Music Cafe restored my faith in humanity. Sure, the Fine Line only holds around 800 people, but the fact that a niche band that only existed for half a decade is still able to tour the U.S. in a bus and not hemorrhage hundred-dollar bills is enough to make a guy want to grow his hair into a bowl cut and spend a whole paycheck on effects pedals.

See also:
Slideshow: Slowdive and Low Rock the Fine Line on Halloween

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