They were the second band this year to sell limited-edition T-shirts commemorating their new star on First Avenue's walls (after the Hold Steady). They were also the second band to graduate from one packed night at the club to two in 2010 (Trampled by Turtles). The thing that probably made Wednesday's Cloud Cult performance seem so energetic, momentous and pretty much perfect, though, was the fact that it wasn't the first or second show on the band's tour behind their new album, "Light Chasers." They actually hit the road back in September.
"We've had so much practice at all those other shows, we are coming home stronger than ever," frontman Craig Minowa said near the start of the 90-minute set, boasting a bit but also telling the absolute truth. He did a little more bragging toward the end, remembering a night back in 2003 when he and his painter bandmate Scott West passed out CDs at the club trying to get their first gig there. "The security staff eventually came around and escorted me out for harassing the staff too much," he recalled. "Now, here we are with our own star on the wall and two full-capacity nights."
Of course, the band has evolved quite a bit over the years to get to where it's at. The most recent addition, keyboardist Sarah Elhardt, added to the fine-tuned orchestration in new songs such as "There's So Much Energy in Us." And semi-new drummer Arlen Peiffer proved he may have the best size-to-power hitting ratio of any drummer in town during some of the more intense songs, such as "Million Things" and "Today We Give Ourselves to the Fire." Peiffer was working so hard, he even lost his glasses at one point. Also new on Wednesday were the giant easels employed by West and fellow painter Connie Minowa, which were harnessed to some kind of device that allowed them to spin their canvasses wildly at the start of the show, adding to the whirring psychedelica. On the sweet side, Connie Minowa spent more time out front singing face-to-face with her husband, a sight that had a sort of triumphant, celebratory quality in new songs such as "You'll Be Bright" (triumphant if you know the Minowa's personal story).
Extra impressive, the band kept the crowd enthralled all night even without playing several of the best-known Cloud Cult songs, including "Pretty Voice," "Chemicals Collide" and "Story of the Grandson of Jesus." They must've been saving them for tonight's just-a-hair-away-from-sold-out show. Here's the Night 1 set list:
Unexplained Stories / No One Said It Would Be Easy / Brain Gateway / The Tornado Lessons / Forces of the Unseen / Mr. Tambourine Man / When Water Comes to Life / Today We Give Ourselves to the Fire / Running With the Wolves / Million Things / IT / You'll Be Bright / Love You All / Take Your Medicine / There's So Much Energy in Us ENCORE: Exploding People / Everybody Here Is a Cloud