Lovers of the 1980s Minneapolis music scene mourned the loss last weekend of Steve Kramer, 59, frontman of the Wallets who became an advertising and stage-musical composer, by recalling some of their favorite Kramer moments. He once played accordion at the 7th Street Entry with David Byrne of Talking Heads sitting in. Music writer Tom Surowicz’s favorite Kramer memory is this overheard exchange, “Man, that guy has the biggest forehead I’ve ever seen,” someone said, and without skipping a beat, R&B Cadets guitarist John Sieger quipped, “Yeah and it’s all full of brains.” Then there was that night at the now-defunct Longhorn punk-rock haven, said former critic Marty Keller, when he scampered offstage and began cleaning out the cash register at the bar while the rest of the band played on, sending bar owner Hartley Frank into a panic. Kramer developed his rep as a merry prankster at a young age. Wallets bandmate Jim Clifford, who jammed with him as far back as when they both attended Blake High, recalled the time Steve put the very orderly Clifford house in disarray. Mrs. Clifford came home to find a melon under her dining table, among other surprises. A memorial celebration will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday at Lake Harriet United Methodist Church, at 49th and Chowen Av. S., Minneapolis.
Have a heart
Let’s be honest, Tony Bennett has pretty much been singing the same stellar repertoire and telling the same cool stories for decades. But on Sunday, he was totally in the moment at the State Theatre. A little more than an hour after the San Francisco 49ers had clinched a Super Bowl berth by beating the Atlanta Falcons, the dapper crooner said, “I’d like to dedicate the next song to the 49ers.” The audience response was mixed, with some noticeable groans from Vikings (or Packers) fans amongst the applause. But after Bennett offered a masterful rendition of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” he received a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd.
A cool reception
Keane frontman Tom Chaplin praised the wildly enthusiastic crowd Monday at First Avenue for contributing to a night that the British band would “remember forever.” But the vocalist would just as soon forget about the subzero temperatures in Minneapolis, which Chaplin had set out to explore earlier. “I made it a block before I nearly died and had to turn back,” he confided during the show. “Never again will an Englishman complain about the weather.” Good thing, too, because if the band had been back home in Battle, East Sussex, that day, the lads would have had to deal with snow, ice and school closings, according to the local newspaper, the Rye & Battle Observer.
RANDY A. SALAS
A nightmare of many a Guthrie actor is that he or she will make an entrance in the wrong one of the playhouse’s three stages. It came true last weekend for John Catron — but by comic design. During a performance of “The Servant of Two Masters” on the McGuire Proscenium Stage, Catron, who plays Jamie in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” on the Wurtele Thrust, appeared amid the comic rabble in the commedia dell’arte play. Steve Epp, the rambunctious star of “Servant,” informed Catron that he was in the wrong theater and the wrong play. An unsteady Catron, still in character, shambled through the house and out the back, presumably to continue his sterling performance in “Long Day’s Journey.”
Brother Ali gets ugly
The always thought-provoking Brother Ali perked up more ears than usual with his rather incendiary verses in the new Slug-led all-star track “It Ain’t the Prettiest,” which Rhymesayers dropped last week to promote the third annual Welcome to Minnesota Tour. His lyrics don’t exactly make our state sound welcoming. “Black bodies dangle off the pole at night,” was one of the lines, which references Duluth’s infamous 1920 lynching of three African-American men wrongly accused of rape (also referenced in Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row”). Then he offers this rant on a Twin Cities weekly newspaper: “City Pages cover what the poets write / But call a dead black baby the N-word overnight.” Wowza! That’s over an item CP ran about 5-year-old Nizzel George’s fatal June shooting in north Minneapolis, which insinuated that the boy’s name was based on Snoop Dogg-propagated slang for the N-word. Ali, who adorned a CP cover in September, told I.W., “City Pages has played a big role in making us known as a great hip-hop city, but they have to be accountable for the way they cover the community.”
Good night, sweet princes
I.W. notes that it’s been a sad time for those of us who recall the theater glory days of the 1970s and 1980s. Jack Edwards, who ran the Guthrie’s costume shop for 20 years and then splashed his creativity into a dozen other high-profile ventures, died at age 78. Then came word that Stephen Kanee, an artistic associate who was a key force at the Guthrie and also taught for many years at the University of Minnesota, had died at his Minneapolis home. Edwards and Kanee were key players in the years when Twin Cities theater started its ascendancy in national circles. As Jack Barkla, the legendary set designer and good friend to both men, said, “It’s been a pretty tough week for me.”