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Posts about Behind the scenes

Legendary Saturday: Crosby, Stills & Nash rock PACER benefit; Prince rocks Paisley Park

Posted by: Jon Bream Updated: May 4, 2015 - 4:54 PM

Seeing seven members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in one night in two concerts in the Twin Cities doesn’t happen too often. It did Saturday night with Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Minneapolis Convention Center for the PACER Center benefit (each is a two-time Hall of Famer, with, respectively the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Hollies and, of course, CSN) and Prince with another late-night cameo performance at Paisley Park.Here are separate reports.

Crosby, Stills & Nash

Let’s be honest: The audience at the annual PACER Center benefit is a little bit staid compared to your typical rock crowd; they’re supporting the cause – helping children with disabilities – as much as they are watching musical heroes. Moreover, there was palpable sadness Saturday at the PACER event because the organization’s longtime executive director and cofounder Paula Goldberg’s son, David, 47, a California Internet executive, died unexpectedly Friday. She was not at Saturday’s event.

But somehow the crowd was more into the music than usual, thanks to a stellar performance by CSN. Their harmonies were impressive. So were the solo voices, especially those of David Crosby and Graham Nash. Their duet on “Guinevere” was glorious, an intricate vocal workout.

Stephen Stills, who has sounded ragged in the recent past, held his own vocally, and he was smokin’ on lead guitar, especially on Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and “Wooden Ships.” The five-man backup band was first-rate all night long.

CSN was generous with its time – they played 80 minutes compared to a mere 47 minutes by Diana Ross last year at the PACER affair – and spirit. Stills spotted a young man in a seersucker sport coat about 8 years old dancing with abandon in front of the stage and he pronounced the kid part of the act.

Knowing he was in Minnesota, Stills spoke about Walter Mondale and Bob Dylan. He did an impression of Dylan singing CSN’s “Helplessly Hoping” and did his own version of Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country.”

Nash gave an encouraging shout-out to Joni Mitchell, who has been hospitalized recently but is improving, before singing “Our House.” He joked about the costumed folks heading to ComicCon in another part of at the Convention Center. And he spoke eloquently about PACER and its championing of children with disabilities before closing with the apropos “Teach Your Children,” which turned into a giant sing-along.


Two weeks after doing his own thing to celebrate Record Store Day at Paisley Park, Prince got topical again Saturday night at his studios in Chanhassen. In an invite posted on Twitter, he urged party-goers to wear gray to honor Freddie Gray, who died of injuries while in police custody in Baltimore. Earlier in the week, Prince’s publicist had distributed vague info about Prince recording a new song -- titled "Baltimore," according to a press release on Monday -- about the Gray incident. There was no release date but there was a graphic (below); Monday's press release indicated that the record is not finished.

Prince didn’t offer a preview of the song -- either a recording or a live version -- on Saturday but he did thank the 500 or so fans for wearing gray. With 3rdEyeGirl, he performed for nearly an hour, starting with the timely “Chaos and Disorder” and “Dreamer,” which featured some extended guitar fireworks and an endorsement from Prince about not having to fear the Chanhassen police.

(Tell that to the woman from Philadelphia whose rental car was pulled over after the concert. She was allegedly traveling 80 mph on Hwy. 5, even though she had driven only from Audubon Rd to Powers Blvd. -- less than half a mile, seemingly too short to accelerate to that speed. She didn’t get a ticket or much of an apology from an officer who identified himself as a Carver County sheriff.)

In a set devoid of his own hits, Prince covered the Tommy James classic “Crimson and Clover” and did his own “Guitar,” which segued into the instrumental powerhouse “PlectrumElectrum.” He encored with an interpretation of the Waterboys’ “The Whole of the Moon,” which featured Prince playing some phat and funky bass over a drum loop and no other musicians participating. It was an intriguing performance on a night with a full moon.

Like he did at the Grammys, Prince made a short but pointed speech. At night’s end, he referenced Baltimore, talked about how we need to take care of one another and then declared, “It doesn’t matter the color – we’re all family. You’re family, my family.”

Then, with the drum loop still playing, he sang “Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore, peace forever more” and then asked the crowd to sing along.

Don’t know if that’s a line from his new song, a tip of his stocking cap to Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe or just a smart ad lib.

Pete Townshend won't get fooled again about Bob Dylan's birthplace

Posted by: Jon Bream Updated: April 24, 2015 - 1:53 AM


Pete Townshend in 2012/ Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler

Pete Townshend in 2012/ Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler


Pete Townshend has long been a fan of Bob Dylan. He even knows that Dylan was born in Duluth. But maybe he doesn’t know where Duluth is.

On Thursday night while the Who’s farewell tour landed in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth, Ga., the guitarist expressed his enthusiasm for being in Duluth. “Dylan was born here,” he said.

Duluth, yes. But the one in Minnesota, not Georgia.

Read the full report from Melissa Ruggieri at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Roger Daltrey even set up Townshend’s faux pas.

Maybe by the time the Who comes to Minneapolis on Oct. 10, Townshend won’t get fooled again and he’ll realize that he’s in the state of Dylan. 

"Carmen" is best seller even before it opens for Minnesota Opera

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: April 22, 2015 - 4:11 PM
 Victoria Vargas, left, and Nora Sourouzian sing "Carmen."/ photo by Corrine Standish.

Three days before it opens, “Carmen” has become the all-time box office queen of the Minnesota Opera. The company reported Wednesday that tickets sold to date had bested the previous revenue record of $951,000 for the entire run of “The Magic Flute” in 2014.

Bizet’s iconic opera opens Saturday for nine performances over two weeks at the Ordway Center in St. Paul. Nora Sourouzian and Victoria Vargas will alternate in the title role. Tenor Rafael Davila will sing Don Jose.

“Achieving this milestone with our new production of ‘Carmen’ is an incredible way to conclude our 2014-15 season,” general director Nina Archabal said in a statement.

As usual, the Opera company says “good seats still available” although several performances have sold out. 612-333-6669 or mnopera.org

NEA head visits Twin Cities

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: April 21, 2015 - 1:48 PM

NEA chair Jane Chu was in the Twin Cities recently, one of many site visits she’s made around the country since being confirmed last summer to lead the organization.

Chu visited The Loft Literary Center, MacPhail Center for Music and the Hmong Cultural Center among other places. She took a few moments to munch on some almonds and answer questions about her trip. While at MacPhail, she got up to speed on the center’s curriculum, which includes an online learning program.

Chu, who ran the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City before coming to the NEA, said arts are not restricted to performances or exhibits. The NEA, she said, has a healing program for military service people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that uses art classes.

“Servicemen find ways through the arts to find their way back home,” said Chu.

She also said the arts can be a nice equalizer – a common language – for non-English speakers in programs that help people get integrated. Chu wasn’t at the NEA when the organization was under fire during the great culture wars of the 1990’s. She laughed when asked if there’s room for “weird art?”

“Of course,” she said. “Art can be weird, it can be all over. That’s the beauty of it. Art should be self expression and that covers all forms.”

Chu was born in Oklahoma of Chinese immigrant parents. She studied piano and music education in college and also holds an MBA and honorary doctorate in music.

"I point to myself when people talk about the variety in the arts because I have this combination of Bok Choy and Corn Dog background," she said.

Walker Art Center retitles and hires new staff

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 8, 2015 - 4:20 PM

   Fionn Meade. Image provided by Walker Art Center.

Walker Art Center has retitled Fionn Meade and hired a new staff member to head its education and public programs department effective immediately.

Meade was hired in February 2014 to be the Walker's Senior Curator of Cross-Disciplinary Platforms, a new title then intended to "cut across artistic disciplines" in a contemporary art center that presents films, theatrical and dance performances, and exhibitions featuring diverse media. His title has now been streamlined to Artistic Director. The job remains the same.

His new title also replaces that of Chief Curator which is a more common designation for whoever leads a museum's programming departments. His predecessor as Chief Curator was Darsie Alexander who left in January 2014, after five years at the Walker, to become director of the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, New York. Alexander had a more traditional background in art history with an emphasis on contemporary photography. Meade was a curator, writer and faculty member at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and Columbia University in New York prior to joining the Walker staff.

  Nisa Mackie, image from Walker Art Center

The Center also named Nisa Mackie as Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs. A native of New South Wales, Australia, she most recently managed public programs at the Biennale of Sydney.


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