Somewhere between Gary Louris’s surprise appearance and the last of many times Norah Jones nonchalantly meandered onto the 7th Street Entry stage Monday night, Cory Chisel muttered to the crowd, “I feel like we're a good value for the price.”
No kidding. The “special guest” appearances alluded to on the $15 tickets – a couple lesser-known talents also showed up at the end of the night – were hardly the big pay-off of Monday’s concert, but they added up to one of the more memorable big gigs of recent years in the puny Entry.
Leading the so-called Wild Rovers Tour, Chisel had a caravan-like assortment of musicians with him, including members of his usual band, the Wandering Sons, who opened for Jones on tour last year. Also in tow were bassist Josh Lattanzi and his New York-based band the Candles, who were part of Jones's touring group last year behind her "Little Broke Hearts" album.
Anyone who came out just to see Jones perform probably felt gipped, because she kept as low a profile on stage as she did in the buildup before the show. The Grammy-sweeping, multi-platinum singer of “Come Away With Me” fame was not mentioned in any promotion for the gig, just in a couple reviews from last week’s appearances. The fact that photographers were banned from the Entry on Monday was probably the best clue she’d be there.
Jones sporadically showed up to sing backup for both Chisel and Lattanzi and actually made the biggest impression providing harmony vocals and playing keyboards alongside Wandering Sons keyboardist Adriel Denae, who also took the lead a few times. That was it, though. When she wasn’t on stage, Jones could often be seen hanging out on the side of it near the bathrooms. Either she didn’t mind folks gawking at her there, or she really didn’t like the Entry’s basement green room (she had never performed there, or in the adjacent First Avenue main room).
But it really didn’t seem like there was anybody there just to see her. It was Chisel’s crowd. The Appleton, Wis.-based, Iron Range-rooted rocker had the big hit “Born Again” on 89.3 the Current a few years ago and has maintained a strong regional following. Fans were singing along the moment he kicked off his set with “Never Meant to Love You.” He dedicated “Halfway to Heaven” to Babbitt, Minn., the dot of an Iron Range town where he has family and roots.
After finishing off with "Over Jordan" and a hand-clap-fueled, a cappella version of “These Four Walls,” Chisel kept the gospel flavor going in the encore with a mash-up of “I’ll Fly Away” and “You Are My Sunshine.” One would’ve expected Jones to know those tunes, but instead, Chisel invited up hip indie-country dudes Jonny Fritz (formerly known as Jonny Corndawg) and Josh Hedley (best known as Justin Townes Earle’s fliddle-playing sidekick). The duo reportedly performed with the Wild Rover entourage over the weekend and tagged along to Minneapolis.
Already here in town, Louris made his one-song guest appearance early in the show with the Candles, who invited him out to sing his Jayhawks favorite “Save It for a Rainy Day.” Chisel joked an hour or two later to Lattanzi, “Remember that night when Gary Louris got up and sang with the Candles?” The most memorable part of the night might have actually been when the band members all traded off verses in a rowdy version of the Grateful Dead’s “U.S. Blues.”
Maybe Bob Weir or some other living Dead member will join in on the next Wild Rovers Tour, if only to sing backup.