Kathy Austin of Owatonna:
1 Paul Thorn and Blind Boys of Alabama, the Dakota. The Dakota became a church where the Blind Boys were still mourning the recent loss of founding member Clarence Fountain. The spirit and soul-filling show made me want to attend this church regularly and get on that “Love Train.”
2 Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, the State. I always enjoy them, and their three-hour show did not disappoint. There was much genuine affection and camaraderie among the talented members, especially with Francine Reed, who has been singing with Lovett since 1984.
3 Sitting in. It’s cool when members of famous touring bands show up and play at smaller venues when in town. Players from Earth, Wind and Fire, here for a State Fair concert, sat in with the Scottie Miller Band at Bunkers.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Metallica, Target Center. Always love the veteran thrash quartet’s intensity, urgency and ferociousness — and ingenious visuals, which this time featured 36 large moving video cubes over a square stage in the middle of the arena. Also appreciated Lars Ulrich reciting Metallica’s history of local gigs.
2 Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes, the Dakota. At 75, she still has the big hair and heavy eyeliner, the preciously romantic songs and context-providing stories. Best of all, backed by two fine younger singers, Spector was in good voice, standing out on “What’d I Say,” “Back to Black” and “Be My Baby.”
3 Flora Cash, “You’re Somebody Else.” This Minneapolis/Sweden husband-wife duo’s intimate, dreamy indie-pop love song sounds like a winner.