Billy Joel Rocks His Way into Fans' Hearts at Target Center

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Steven Cohen
Billy Joel with Gavin DeGraw
Target Center, Minneapolis
Saturday, May 16, 2015

"It's nine o'clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles in," Billy Joel sang to a sold-out crowd Saturday night at Target Center. Even though the 66-year-old singer has not written a Top 40 hit in more than two decades, his music is still a pinnacle that many artists strive to reach and defines timelessness. Classics and nostalgia were what he fine-tuned the dial to on Saturday -- enough to bring an older crowd to their feet.

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Five Things We Learned From Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Categories: Film, Nostalgia

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Photo still from Montage of Heck
Last night, the highly anticipated new documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck premiered on HBO. The film, directed by Brett Morgan and with Frances Bean Cobain serving as executive producer, blends live concert footage and stylish animation with intimate home movies from Kurt's childhood straight through to his breakout success as the frontman for Nirvana.

While the documentary provides an endearing glimpse of Cobain as a baby as well as a blossoming musician, Montage of Heck isn't intended to add to the hero worship that has been bestowed on Kurt over the past two decades. There are plenty of heartbreaking glimpses of a soul in torment, ravaged by years of drug abuse and crippling depression. It's a brilliant documentary, but also a very painful one to watch, because we all know the ending.

Montage of Heck is filled with new insights into Cobain's personal life as well as the brief but revolutionary career of Nirvana. Here are five things that we took away from the engrossing documentary.

See Also:
Nirvana's In Utero vs. Nevermind: Which is better?

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Why Nine Inch Nails' Fierce "March of the Pigs" Video Rules

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Screengrab via YouTube
Doesn't it make you feel better?

When people ask me which music video is my all-time favorite, Nine Inch Nails' "March of the Pigs" immediately comes to mind. The lead single from NIN's 1994 opus The Downward Spiral was as abrasive, noisy, and emotionally battering as it was popular.

There was a more-elaborate version in the works involving, among other things, a cave and a little person. Frontman Trent Reznor abandoned this idea for simply shooting the video in front of a white backdrop and playing the song live -- a truly '90s thing to do. It was perfect in it's non-idea of "film us playing and breaking shit, yeah, let the stagehands get in the shot if they have to" and has the overall feel of a snuff film without a death at the end of it. Let's take a trip back together.

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The Drinker's Guide to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks

Categories: Nostalgia, Vinyl

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Into the slipstream...

Van Morrison's 1968 solo debut, Astral Weeks, is an unconquerable achievement. Conceived when the then-23-year-old was in the pitch of heavy drinking, the album stands as a wandering, mystical cycle of energy.

True to the stereotypes, Morrison drank heavily in his early life, once claiming that the link between his nationality and dependency was symbiotic. "You're Irish, number one," he said, "and you're a drinker, number two."

As St. Patrick's Day arrives in a tide of green beer and regurgitated corned beef, Astral Weeks calls to be revisited but with some reverence -- to both Celticism and the drink.


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Swervedriver's Raise: A Forgotten Shoegaze Classic

Categories: Nostalgia
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Photo by Giles Borg
The Swervedriver of the present.

Swervedriver | Turf Club | Thursday, March 12
Aside from that glorious stretch from 1990 to 1992, there really hasn't been a better time to be a shoegaze fan than the present day. In the past two years, My Bloody Valentine resurfaced with an album and toured. Ride and Slowdive reunited for their first shows since the mid-'90s. Another less-heralded but just as essential group riding the shoegaze revival is Swervedriver, who are touring on the new record I Wasn't Born to Lose You.

Led by Adam Franklin, the English group's original run lasted from 1989 to 1998 and yielded four full-length records, including the classic 1991 debut Raise. Music fans always throw out My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, the Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy, and Ride's Nowhere as hallmarks of the genre, but Raise is perhaps the greatest shoegaze album you never hear about.

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The Church: Most Underrated One-Hit Wonder of the '80s?

Categories: Nostalgia

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Unorthodox Records
Take me to the Church.
The Church are one of the greatest one-hit wonders of the 1980s, but they get a fraction of the love they deserve. No disrespect to A-ha's "Take On Me," A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran (So Far Away)" or "867-5309/Jenny," but I'd give you 8,675,309 Tommy Tutones for one Church.

The Church's hit in question was "Under the Milky Way," a 1988 smash that briefly made the Australian alternative rock band a staple on U.S. radio. In America, a one-hit wonder is commonly defined as an artist who only has one song reach the top 40 of Billboard's Hot 100 chart. This doesn't account for specialty charts like the magazine's Alternative or Mainstream Rock lists, where the band had success with a few songs other than "Milky Way," which peaked at #24 on the main chart.

Mention the Church, who visit the Cedar Cultural Center Thursday, to music fans in 2015 and half of them talk about wanting to take Hozier there and the other half ask why you're not spelling it with a v. It's a shame, because they made some of the most thrilling music of the '80s. Here are five reasons why this Church should be worshipped above all others.


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Mr. Big's "To Be With You" Was Hair Metal's Last Hurrah

Categories: Nostalgia
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Screengrab via YouTube
Eric Martin of Mr. Big

Mr Big's "To Be With You" should qualify as the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, but there's no shame in rocking out to it. But why is that? Could it be how it's something of a final bow to the pre-Nirvana rock era? Is it the silliness of the video, which made us just like the band and their vibe that much more? Or is it just such a strong melody?

"To Be With You" has become a staple of hair metal compilations, often getting featured in their late-night commercials. A five-second clip of Eric Martin sitting backwards on a chair crooning in black-and-white is a pretty convincing argument to order a double-CD off the television. The song was a legit monster hit in the early '90s. But was it also hair metal's curtain call?

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Maroon 5: Some Things Are Better Left in 2004

Categories: Nostalgia
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Photo by Tony Nelson; full slideshow here.
Maroon 5's Adam Levine doing what he's been doing for years.

In the summer of 2004, my taste in music was at a juncture that could be kindly described as "nascency."

Sure, the 15-year-old me was only a semester away from getting on the right track by diving headfirst into the Weezer catalog and not emerging for a couple months. But there was also the time I begged my dad to take my friend and me to see Three Days Grace two hours from home. I stupidly skipped my turn in my baseball team's starting rotation to attend that concert, which is doubly unfortunate because a hard-hit line drive might've knocked some sense into me.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I'm driving across Illinois and concocting a scheme to alter our family vacation for the sake of getting to a John Mayer concert at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto. Actually, I wish that were the whole truth. I was mostly hoping to get to the Molson Amphitheatre in order to see Mayer's opening act, Maroon 5.


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The CC Club brings back its old-school jukebox

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When we put together May's cover feature, "An Oral History of the CC Club," nearly everyone we talked to -- bar owners and bar flies, journalists and rock stars -- had something to say about the bar's legendary jukebox.

Some of their tales were eulogies. About two years ago, the bar's owners ditched their old model in favor of an electronic, internet-equipped TouchTunes version. Now, though, CC Club regulars have cause for a toast: At the end of August, the bar's new managers decided to bring a classic juke back.

See Also: An oral history of the CC Club jukebox

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Nirvana's In Utero vs. Nevermind: Which is better?

Categories: Essays, Nostalgia
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It's been 20 years since Nirvana released their final studio album, In Utero. Recorded at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, the release is getting the deluxe treatment with a 70-song reissue, including a remastering of the original album tracks, B-sides, demos, and remixes of "Heart-Shaped Box," among others, on September 24.

Two years ago, Nevermind received a similar second look. But clearly one of these albums has stood the test of time better, when the 12 tracks of each are pitted against each other. Oh, I know, I know. "But what about Bleach?" "What about Unplugged?" No. These are the iconic recordings. It's Butch Vig vs. Steve Albini. A swimming baby against a winged study in female anatomy.

The overall outcome is surprising, especially given my vocalizations of both favor and displeasure at parts of both of these albums over the years since their respective releases. There are no two albums I have thought about or picked apart more -- although Licensed to Ill is a very close third -- in my lifetime. Picking them apart methodically was cathartic in a way I have trouble putting into words. Let the territorial pissings begin.

See Also:
Nirvana's In Utero studio site in Cannon Falls overhauled
Matt Mueller, former Pachyderm Studio owner, dies in car accident


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