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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First Ave Brings Out Special Guests to Celebrate 45th Anniversary

Categories: Concert Review
Photo by Mike Madison

First Avenue's 45th Anniversary
Featuring Har Mar Superstar, Sonny Knight and the Lakers, Sims, and the Cactus Blossoms
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, April 3, 2015

Friday night's 45th Anniversary show at First Avenue mirrored the history of the club itself. The performances ranged between country, hip-hop, funk, and soul, with a consistent level of quality that we've come to expect from the venue over the years. The night wisely chose to celebrate the present instead of a retroactively looking back, and that's one of the big reasons why First Ave continues to lead the local music scene today.

See also:
First Avenue at 45: Our First and Favorite Shows

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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

Categories: Concert Review
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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The Decemberists Spanned Storied, Epic Catalog at Northrop

Categories: Concert Review

Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

The Decemberists

Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The title of the latest Decemberists album was inspired by one of American history's darkest tragedies, but the indie-folk heroes kept things light as ever at Northrop Auditorium Tuesday night.

What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, the Portland quintet's seventh album, takes its name from album cut "12/7/12." Frontman Colin Meloy wrote it about the contrast between his happy personal life and the country's sadness over the Sandy Hook shooting. That song, along with most of the new record's 14 cuts, was not aired live by the band in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,700.

See also:
Slideshow: The Decemberists Rock Northrop

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Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Square Danced with Sadness at the Fitzgerald

Categories: Concert Review
Jerard Fagerberg
Sadness and happiness arrive hand in hand.

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield
Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul
Sunday, March 22, 2015

Life is a careful balance between joy and melancholy, and we are always one tremble from slipping into the abyss. This is the lesson Elliott Smith taught through his music.

Despite this, Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield were in good spirits as they took the stage of the Fitzgerald Sunday night. The two were in town as part of their 13-stop tour promoting Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith. Dressed in drab -- Mayfield sporting a drooping funeral gown and Avett looking like a bullied academic -- they smiled and saluted the crowd, an apt metaphor for the night ahead.

Along with them to pay tribute to the late master of misery was standup bassist Paul Defiglia, resident keyboardist for the Avett Brothers, whose plucky, deep tones added a foreboding, straight-from-the-washtub tone to the Avett-ized Smith covers. Though Mayfield's airy, downtrodden Jenny Lewis impression was a fitting anagram of Smith's own, Avett's voice is far too mellifluous to be an exact homage. In essence, this was the point of the evening -- not to recreate Smith's heartbreaking body of work, but to interpret it in a way that helps you better digest the pain.

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Educated Guesses as to Why Drake Doesn't Want You to See Drake's Homecoming

Drake hasn't said why he disowned his new documentary, but we have some ideas.

No rapper spends more time glamorizing their come-up than Drake. So it was all the more perplexing that the Ontario-born R&B impresario disavowed Drake's Homecoming: The Lost Footage, the IMAX documentary focusing on his 2009 show at Toronto's Sound Academy.

To date, Drizzy hasn't specified why exactly he's distanced himself from the project. Co-executive producer Mark Berry told Rolling Stone he thinks it's a case of Drake having "sour grapes" over losing creative control, but that's a biased claim. The YMCMB crooner claimed he's trying to #protectthefans, but what about the 120-minute retrospective is so dangerous?

If you were one of the 15 (Ed. note: Fucking fifteeeeen) people who caught the one-night-only showing at the AMC Southdale last night, you may have some educated guesses.

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Get Cryphy's 7th Anniversary Was a Chaotic, Sweaty Celebration

Get Cryphy now @firstavenue #getcryphy #firstavenue

A photo posted by jbird (@jbird) on

Get Cryphy 7th Anniversary
with Le1f, Toki Wright, Lizzo, Bobby Raps, Astronautalis, RP Hooks, and more
First Avenue Mainroom
Saturday, March 14, 2015

Plain Ole Bill, DJ Fundo, Last Word, and Jimmy Two Times once again expanded their Get Cryphy dance night to fit First Avenue's mainroom for their anniversary. It was a fitting end to the seven years the crew held down a monthly residency in the Record Room. Stacked with guest appearances and raw rap classics, the night was as chaotic and sweaty as the diverse crowd has come to expect.

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Jeff and Spencer Tweedy Prove Inspired Artistry Runs in the Family

Categories: Concert Review

Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
L-R: Jeff and Spencer Tweedy

First Avenue, Minneapolis
Sunday, March 8, 2015

The last time that most Wilco fans met Spencer Tweedy was the 2002 rockumentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, which chronicles the making of the alt-country band's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Towards the end of that classic film, the then-six-year-old is found on the tour bus with his famous father, Jeff, banging away on his knees to Wilco's "Heavy Metal Drummer." It doesn't quite sound like the studio version, but it's an adorable scene nonetheless.

Fast forward to Sunday night, when Tweedy, the side project formed between the father and son, played the third show of their current U.S. tour at a sold-out First Avenue. Spencer is now 19 years old and fully capable of keeping time behind his dad, as proven by a two-hour gig where he and his old man aired songs from last year's double album Sukierae, and then plenty more.

See also:
Slideshow: Tweedy Rock First Avenue

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