A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
The Cat Empire, the Cedar. Six years away from its Basilica visit, the six-piece Aussie band showed that it can still keep the crowd moving to its unique, fun sound of Latin-influenced ska, jazz, funk and reggae.
Dana Fuchs. Rarely is there an act worth seeing twice in a week. She is the real deal with lasting appeal. Blues from a worn heart and a voice that will cut yours. Bayfront Blues Fest provided evidence, and the Dakota was the proof. Case dismissed.
Lyle Lovett, Minnesota Zoo. An inspirational show following the dedication of the zoo stage to honor promoter Sue McLean. While remembering one woman, another was missed (backup singer Francine Reed) — still my favorite zoo show of 2013.
Tim Bohmer, Minneapolis
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Jimmy Cliff, First Avenue. The colorful, kinetic reggae hero’s 130-minute career retrospective was variously soulful, consistently infectious, unindulgently informative and totally triumphant – one of the best Twin Cities club shows of 2013.
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, Burnsville Performing Arts Center. These masterful 15 Cuban musicians played as an ensemble, with no ego tripping. The radiant vocalist Omara Portuondo, 82, was divine, and all three guitarists offered standout solos.
Bettye LaVette, the Dakota. Without repeating one song over two nights, she staked her claim as today’s pre-eminent R&B interpreter, covering everyone from Willie Nelson to the Who. No one purges the pain like LaVette.
Jon Bream, Star Tribune