Friday, January 20, 2012

Extremely Belated Concert Reviews from 2011

I went to some great concerts during 2011 that I never got around to writing about in detail, for whatever reason. So here are some reflections about those concerts.

Allen Toussaint, solo at the Dakota. An amazing show. I saw Allen with his band at the Dakota in 2009, but seeing him perform solo was just as awesome. He performed a lot of the hit songs he’s written over the years, including “Mother-In-Law” and “Java.” The highlight of the show was a 10 or 15 minute version of “Southern Nights” with Toussaint playing the melody of the song as he told stories about his childhood. It was beautiful and just mesmerizing.

Elvis Costello, the Spectacular Spinning Songbook Tour at the State Theater. So amazing! Elvis sang about 30 songs over almost 3 hours. I had high expectations for my first time seeing EC in concert, and this show definitely exceeded them. I can’t believe how much energy Elvis has. Elvis did some medleys where he mixed all kinds of songs together, both his own and other people’s, and I thought to myself that these medleys kind of explained his vision of music. Costello probably sees all kinds of music as being linked together, since his own music is so diverse. He gets the links between Broadway, jazz, rock, blues, country, folk, and just about any other genre you could name. Costello is a great showman, as he showed when he talked to the audience members who came up to spin the songbook wheel. He ended up performing just about every song listed on the wheel! Highlights included a gorgeous version of “Shipbuilding,” “Beyond Belief,” “Everyday I Write the Book,” which segued into Prince’s “Purple Rain,” and lovely solo versions of “A Slow Drag with Josephine,” and “Jimmie Standing in the Rain.” For the first time on this blog, the photo is one that I took from my seat.

U2, in the rain at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. It was worth the year wait. (The concert was postponed for a year because of Bono’s back injury.) The weather was fine during Interpol’s opening set, but once U2 took the stage it began to drizzle, and finally the skies just opened up. It was an exhilarating feeling, singing along with 60,000 other people to these beautiful, moving songs as rain poured down on us. When you can’t get out of the rain, eventually you get to a point where you’re as wet as you can possibly be, and you don’t seem to get wetter. The rain gave the show an amazing energy that makes this one of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever been to. This is what music is all about, the connections between 60,000 strangers who all know the words to the same song. The highlight for me was probably “Beautiful Day,” as it rained. Like Elvis, Bono also did an impromptu version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” during the encores.

Tony Bennett, Mystic Lake Casino. I’ve seen Tony twice before in concert, and this show was in late August shortly after he had turned 85. I can’t believe how good his voice still is. His voice is still so powerful, he hardly needs a microphone. Tony’s voice is a little ragged around the edges now, but I think that just gives his voice more emotion. Bennett obviously still gets such joy from performing, it’s really fun to see him. He still performs with just a quartet, giving the music a real jazz feel. Highlights included a beautiful version of “Cold, Cold Heart,” and of course, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

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