Welcome to Artcetera. Arts-and-entertainment writers and critics post movie news, concert updates, people items, video, photos and more. Share your views. Check it daily. Remain in the know. Contributors: Mary Abbe, Jon Bream, Tim Campbell, Colin Covert, Laurie Hertzel, Tom Horgen, Neal Justin, Claude Peck, Rohan Preston, Chris Riemenschneider, Graydon Royce, Randy Salas and Kristin Tillotson.
Dan Wilson was a special guest for the New Standards holiday show Saturday at the State Theatre. His brother, Matt, is always a guest at the New Standards Christmas gigs, now in their eighth year. And, of course, John Munson is a member of the New Standards. You’ll recall that the Wilson brothers and Munson comprise three-fourths of Trip Shakespeare, a beloved late 1980s/early 90s Minneapolis band.
Well, the New Standards had an extra-special guest Saturday. And we’re not talking about St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman on bagpipes, though he was part of the mix. Standup drummer Elaine Harris returned to the Twin Cities for the first Trip Shakespeare live performance in 20 years.
It was only two songs – “Susannah” and “Snow Days,” which has been a part of the New Standards holiday show every year. But it was an extra-special moment.
Trip Shakespeare seemed a bit tentative on the first number but it was glorious to hear “Snow Days” by the ensemble that originated it – with the full blown New Standards orchestra pitching in at the end. What a treat to see New Standards’ Chan Poling, who in 2013 famously recorded the first Suburbs album in 27 years, sharing the piano with Dan Wilson, the now famous Grammy-winning songwriter who has worked with Adele, Pink and Taylor Swift, to name a few.
As Munson said, “that represents 20 years of begging” for a Trip Shakespeare reunion.
No one could have topped that trump card, but guests Dessa, the media darling doing her own rap/sung rewrite of “My Favorite Things,” came close, and Coleman’s kilt-clad bagpipe performance (as part of a quartet of pipers) added a new dimension to the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” which the New Standards had done for Christmas before.
Sweet-voiced Dan Wilson sang two new songs – his current single “Disappearing” and a country-tinged holiday ditty, “Are You Lonely Tonight, Mrs. Claus?” Matt Wilson offered an oldie, “Don’t Worry Baby,” that had been made famous by some other Wilson brothers, the ones in the Beach Boys. Too bad Matt started this in such a high key.
Other guests were familiar to folks who’ve been to previous New Standards holiday shows, which were always at the Fitzgerald in St. Paul. Jeremy Messersmith, Haley Bonar and Aby Wolf did solo vocal turns. Tim Frantzich recited a Robert Bly poem, and Timothy Young delivered an original poem, “He Has the Whole World in His Hands.”
Rupert, a fixture at New Standards concerts year round, danced in a devil’s outfit – which was easily the highlight of his holiday dance career and the dance highlight of Saturday’s show (the dancers always seem forced and under-rehearsed).
As for New Standards themselves, they did their distinctive readings of tunes by the Replacements, Leonard Cohen and Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks with stand-out work by vibes ace Steve Roehm.,And, most importantly, the trio closed with Poling’s original “Christmastime Next Year,” which deserves to be the first contemporary holiday tune to become part of the seasonal songbook since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in 1994. Maybe Dan Wilson could pitch Poling’s piece to one of his superstar friends so the rest of the world can hear it.
The New Standards will take their holiday show to Rochester, St. Cloud and New York. But first the trio has another performance at the State Theatre on Sunday night. Wonder if we’ll get a Suburbs reunion?
Taylor Swift/ Star Tribune photo by Kyndell Harkness
You will hear lots of familiar names when the Grammy nominations are announced Friday night during a primetime special -- the over-titled “The Grammy Nominations Concert Live – Countdown to Music’s Biggest Night” --- starting at 9 on Ch. 4. (Performers include Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Robin Thicke, Miguel, Keith Urban, T.I., Lorde and Earth, Wind & Fire.)
Swift, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars had three of the biggest-selling albums of the eligibility period, Oct. 1, 2012-Sept. 30, 2013, and they will receive lots of nominations. But not all the key nominations will be as predictable as you think.
Why? Because the nominees in the Big Four categories are chosen by a blue-ribbon industry panel, not the Recording Academy members, who vote on nominees in all other categories. The blue-ribbon panel has had a habit of reflecting of critical and/or hip tastes every once in a while. Hence, names like Kendrick Lamar and Kacey Musgraves might show up as finalists, especially for best new artist.
Here are one person’s predictions for the nominees in the Big Four contests. Winners will be announced at the 56th annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 26.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Lorde, the New Zealand teen who told us we’d never be “Royals,” should make the finals along with Imagine Dragons, the drum-beating, hit-making rockers from Las Vegas, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the Seattle crew that enjoyed some of the biggest mainstream rap hits in years. From country music, it’ll either be crossover “Cruise” hitmakers Florida Georgia Line or clever singer-songwriter Musgraves, who won the best new artist at last month’s CMA Awards. The other slot could go to either stand-out rapper Lamar or U.K. soul/pop songbird Emeli Sande – or both. Maybe there will be six finalists instead of the usual five.
Outside shots: Ariana Grand, Ed Sheeran, Phillip Phillips and Of Monsters and Men.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
Even though it was one of the year’s biggest records, Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” won’t make the cut because of the controversy and lawsuits that he allegedly cribbed parts of this tune from Marvin Gaye. The Grammys don’t need another tainted winner like Milli Vanilli, the lip-synchers who won best new artist in 1989 and then had the trophy taken away. So I’m going with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Lorde’s “Royals” and one of Macklemore’s big hits – either “Thrift Shop,” the popular choice, or “Same Love,” the artistic and politic choice (though it might have a better shot at song of the year). That leaves two more slots to fill, with Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” probably grabbing one and perhaps Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” or Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” snaring the other.
Outside shots: Timberlake’s “Mirrors,” Perry’s “Roar,”Aviici’s “Wake Me Up,” Kanye West’s “New Slaves” and Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
SONG OF THE YEAR
Remember, this is a songwriter’s prize whereas record of the year honors a single. Got that? Oftentimes, this category mirrors record of the year but not always. “Same Love” will likely get a nod here. Same with “When I Was Your Man” and “Royals.” “Just Give Me a Reason” should make the cut, too. Look for Rihanna’s “Stay” – which doesn’t have a chance for record of the year – to receive recognition here.
Outside shots: The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two,” Musgraves’ “Merry Go Round” and Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.”
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Swift’s “Red” and Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience” were not only the two top sellers but they are artistically respected. Ditto for Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox,” the No. 4 seller. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Heist” is a likely finalist, which would give them nominations in all of the Big Four. But the panel might swing more toward West’s bold and controversial “Yeezus” as the year’s top hip-hop effort. The panel always seems to show some love for critically loved indie-rock acts, so Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City” could get a nod.
Outside shots: Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same,” Musgraves’ “Same Trailer Different Park,” Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” and Civil Wars’ “Civil Wars.”
Hunter Hayes/ Star Tribune photos by Carlos Gonzalez
For a theater show, Hunter Hayes sure had a big production at the Orpheum Theatre on Wednesday. A multi-level stage, ramps, clever lighting patterns, bubble machines and a very tall live video screen.
As indicated in my review, the newcomer sure knows how to work a crowd. He’ll do it again Thursday at the Orpheum and maybe that audience will get a different cover or two. (By the way, Kansas City is the only other place on his Let’s Be Crazy Tour where he’s doing two shows.) Otherwise, he did all 17 songs from the “Encore” edition of his debut album.
For some reason, opening act Ashley Monroe didn’t join him for the encore of “What You Gonna Do,” which she did in other cities and does on the “Encore” disc.
I’m a big fan of her music (her solo album and the Pistols Annies disc – she’s a member of the trio – are among my fave country albums of 2013). But frankly, her sound is too old-school country and her lyrics too hip and, um, mature for Hayes’ tween- and teen-dominated audience.
Maybe Cassadee Pope or Danielle Bradbery (who is on tour with Brad Paisley) would have been a more fitting opening act.
Here is Hayes’ set list from Wednesday:
Storm Warning/ Can’t Say Love/ Faith To Fall Back On/ Rainy Season/ Somebody’s Heartbreak/ A Thing About You/ Love Makes Me/ Cry with You/ All You Ever/ solo acoustic In a Song/ If You Told Me To > Hey, Soul Sister (Train) > Just the Way You Are (Bruno Mars)/ Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me/ On Top of the World (Imagine Dragons)/ More Than I Should/ Where We Left Off/ Wanted/ Light Me Up/ Better Than This ENCORE What You Gonna Do/ I Want Crazy
At the final Talking Volumes event of the 2013 season, crime novelist (and jazz lover) Michael Connelly said he was co-producing a documentary about Minneapolis-born jazz saxophonist Frank Morgan, who died in 2007. Connelly said he often listens to jazz when he writes, especially when he's writing about his popular detective hero Harry ("Hieronymous") Bosch.
Connelly said that Morgan's family members, some of whom were in the audience at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul on Tuesday, had been very helpful in making the documentary, "Sound of Redemption," which Connelly said is likely to be released in spring 2014.
Morgan was born in Minneapolis in 1933, raised mostly in Milwaukee and then moved to Los Angeles, where drugs soon led him to an adult life spent in and out of prison. His late-in-life comeback began in the mid-1980s, and included gigs at the Dakota in Minneapolis, after he moved back to Minneapolis in 2005. The Morgan documentary is being directed by N.C. Heikin, and includes interviews as well as archival footage. James Egan is another producer.
Connelly has written about his love of Morgan's music, and how he came to the idea that detective Bosch would love it, too.
“Coming back here is no small thing for me,” Joe Henry noted a few songs into his nearly two-hour performance Tuesday at the Dakota Jazz Club. On a very rare, four-city solo-acoustic tour, the veteran songwriter and Grammy-winning producer frequently waxed nostalgic about his early-‘90s stay overs in Minneapolis, where his manager Dave Ayers lived, as did his frequent studio and road backers, the Jayhawks.
“They weren’t making any money then, and neither was I, so the thought was we could make money together,” Henry quipped.
Jayhawks co-leader Gary Louris joined Henry for two songs in the encore. The pair sang and played into the same vocal and guitar microphones (think: Everly Brothers when Phil and Don could stand each other), an intimate approach that matched the story Henry told about them sleeping in the same bed together on tour. And with that, the old cohorts launched into the perfect old-flame cover, the Righteous Brothers’ “That Loving Feeling,” before tenderly rendering Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.”
Brandishing just an acoustic guitar for most of the show, Henry paid homage to a few other local acquaintances in attendance. He shared a humorous memory about staying at music scribe Jim Walsh’s house and even cutting his grass the day Walsh’s story on Henry appeared on the cover of City Pages. “Pretty soon you’re going to have Soul Asylum coming over to clean out the gutters to get on the cover,” Henry quipped, dedicating the golden oldie “Short Man’s Room” to Walsh.
Henry also played “One Shoe On” from the “Short Man’s Room” album in tribute to his sister, who drove in from Wisconsin for the show. He figured he hadn’t played either song in over a decade. The most touching dedication, though, was to Chrissie Dunlap, wife of stroke-sidelined local music great Bob “Slim” Dunlap. Slim’s “Taken on the Chin” was saved for the finale, a song Henry covered for the “Songs for Slim” benefit series now compiled on an endearing new two-disc set.
The show was hardly just a Memory Lane excursion. Henry mostly ignored his other ‘90s albums and played a lot of new tunes and recent collaborations, the latter songs accentuated with stories. He talked about collaborating with Loudon Wainwright III on “You Can’t Fail Me Now” for the movie “Knocked Up” (a movie his wife disliked, he noted), and on “Your Name on My Tongue” with Billy Bragg (whom his wife and whole family loved). He took to the grand piano to play the Willie Mays-fantasized 2007 gem “Our Song” and 1999’s “Monkey,” noting his son’s disappointment at that time that he only sings “monkey” once in the song.
Henry also played a handful of new songs from a just-finished album that proved to be among the night’s most stirring and evocative, including a darkly melodic beauty called “Sway” and a moving ode to marriage, “Grave Angels.” The new tunes hewed closer to the rootsy Americana sounds of Henry’s early-‘90s albums. Too bad he has his own fancy studio in Los Angeles nowadays, or else maybe he’d have come back and recorded them here in Minneapolis. Here's hoping he finds another excuse to return soon.