"How lucky am I?" Andrew Bird asked near the end of his sold-out State Theatre concert Saturday, pointing toward his band. The Chicago indie-rock star didn't need luck to find the right musicians to match his quirky, innovative style; he only needed directions to the Twin Cities, where all three of his bandmates reside. "Martin [Dosh] was the first," he said, "and then came Jeremy [Ylvisaker]." Bird saved his best line of the night for new guy Mike Lewis, who played electric bass through most of the set, but brought out his instrument of choice from Happy Apple for one song. Said Bird, "I swore I'd never have sax with anyone in my band, but this is different."
"You know what? This is a pretty good little band," Brian Setzer said Friday at the Fine Line during the Stray Cats' only U.S. gig of 2009, which doubled as his 50th birthday party. A cake decorated with the Cats logo was brought out for the encore. Bass man Lee Rocker hugged and kissed Setzer. Drummer Slim Jim Phantom reminisced: "I think we played a bar on your 25th that was smaller than this." It was just a few years ago that Setzer moved to Minneapolis after marrying a Hopkins woman, singer Julie Reiten. He acknowledged his recently planted roots, declaring: "Minneapolis, my friends and my new hometown, are you ready to rock this town?" And that's just what they did for nearly two hot and sweaty hours.
At the Museum of Russian Art in south Minneapolis this week, Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, conferred one of his country's highest honors, the Order of Friendship, on the museum's former director, Brad Shinkle IV. Kislyak praised the museum for introducing Americans to Russian history, art and culture. "I never thought I would find in the middle of the United States a museum telling the story of Russia as it is here," he said as some 200 business, art and political types -- including St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and museum founder Ray Johnson (who also has received the honor) --mingled in a gallery hung with Soviet-era realist paintings. Other Order of Friendship winners include pianist Van Cliburn and World Bank president James Wolfenson.
After four years and 200-some candy-bar giveaways, Chris Roberts will turn over the reins of "The Local Show" on the Current (89.3 FM) to David Campbell, former "KQ Homegrown" cohost and current Current jockey. Roberts will go back to working full time for Minnesota Public Radio's news department after his final show April 26 (5 p.m.). The guy deserves a big ol' thank-you for his often thankless support of the scene. And while the Sneaker Pimps and Poe seem to be cutting into the Current's midweek Minnesota playlist, the station will turn the show into a two-hour affair (6-8 p.m.) when Campbell takes over May 3. Coincidentally, two other guys from the Current's Sunday lineup, Chicago critics and "Sound Opinions" hosts Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis, will be in town Monday to host a free panel at the Cedar Cultural Center on the future of their troubled industry. The music biz, not newspapers.
Can we TiVo this?
Times are tough, so arts organizations are understandably stepping up fundraising, often with a heartfelt curtain speech by a board or staff member. Still, the "ask" can get overbearing, or, in the case of the Southern Theater, tacky and ill-timed. Before the Shapiro & Smith Dance concert last Thursday, a recorded voice encouraged audience members to give what we could. The canned pitch sounded like an ad and was just as impersonal. The art will speak most eloquently for the value of the organization, so let us enjoy the transition from real life to the stage experience without commercial interruption.
Sure, "The Barber of Seville" at the Ordway Center in St. Paul offers a translated text (via supertitles). But the comic opera also has another interpretive aid: a chalkboard. When music teacher Don Basilio (Matt Boehler on opening night) advises Dr. Bartolo (Dale Travis) how to destroy his rival for the affections of his ward, Rosina, he draws a face with X'd-out eyes and a big frown. While Figaro (James Westman) tells Rosina (Allyson McHardy) about her secret admirer, he sketches two stick figures with arms joined, underneath a big heart. Things get a bit more complicated when Bartolo threatens to lock Rosina away, warning that her "puppy dog eyes" will do her no good. I.W. couldn't help but think the chalk version of Rosina looked more like a dead cat.