Dan Wilson/ Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace
It’s seldom at a benefit concert where the featured singer can speak as eloquently about the cause as Dan Wilson did Saturday night at Sheridan School in northeast Minneapolis.
The cause was to fight school kids who go hungry at home on the weekends. Wilson explained it clearly without overdoing it or getting preachy. He explained that his cousin, Dodd Lamberton, was a board member of the Sheridan Story, the sponsoring organization.
Thanks to Wilson drawing a sellout crowd of 550, Sheridan Story raised enough money to provide 25,000 meals for kids who are “food insecure.” The program began three years ago after school personnel noticed students liberating additional helpings from the cafeteria on Fridays to take home.
A Sheridan Story spokesman told concertgoers that 94 percent of the students at Sheridan School qualify for this program, and that 30 students at nearby Bethune School are “homeless or mobile.”
The stories of these kids – one of whom attended the concert – touched the concertgoers as much as Wilson’s music, which was as eloquent as his succinct speech about the issue at hand.
In his 100-minute performance, the Minneapolis singer-songwriter, who now lives in Los Angeles, did material from his Semisonic days, tunes he’s written for others including Adele and the Dixie Chicks, and songs from first and soon-to-be-released second solo album.
The sweet-voiced pop singer was accompanied by pianist Brad Gordon, the Laurel String Quartet and his own acoustic guitar. Opening act Jeremy Messersmith contributed vocal harmonies on a few selections.
Wilson told back stories behind some of the songs such as how he and the Dixie Chicks came to write the Grammy-winning “Not Ready To Make Nice.” They had rejected his idea for a song called “Undivided” but the next morning, while fueling up on coffee, he came up with the concept for “Not Ready To Make Nice.” But he didn’t sing it Saturday; instead he offered ”Easy Silence,” which he also co-wrote with the Chicks.
He explained that “Closing Time,” Semisonic’s 1998 hit, was actually as much about someone being born as it was about what happens when a bar shuts its doors for the night. After he sang it, some yahoo guy shouts out: “Greatest song ever.” Wilson gracefully retorted: “Wichita Lineman. Next.”
Wilson also served up Semisonic’s “DND,” “Gone to the Movies,” “One True Love” (and the story how he came to co-write it with Carole King) and “I Wish,” which required a couple extra musicians to recreate its epic sound.
The 52-year-old St. Louis Park native didn’t share any stories about working with Taylor Swift, Pink and Dierks Bentley, all of which has led to handsome checks of late. He did talk about dropping his second solo recording next spring, and previewed four appealing pieces -- “Disappearing,” “Love without Fear,” “A Song Can Be About Anything” and “Your Brighter Days,” which he explained was inspired after talking to the mother of a screaming special-needs child on an airplane and comparing resources for special-needs children (Wilson’s older daughter is in that category).
Talking about kids seems to bring out eloquence in Wilson.