If Monday night’s sold-out gig by the newly christened duo Arthur Buck in the 7th Street Entry simply had been a solo show by singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur, that would’ve been just dandy in its own right. The Ohio-reared rocker — a regular at the 400 Bar, Entry and on local radio 16-19 years ago — reiterated his talent and pulled out a strong batch of songs off the new, eponymous record.
But there were numerous other factors that made the show far more noteworthy, including:
1) It was the first formal 7th Street Entry gig by Arthur Buck’s other namesake member, Peter Buck, since his kinda-famous earlier band, R.E.M., was supposed to play there on Thanksgiving Day 1981. As is now a well-known part of First Ave lore, the gangly and under-winterized kids from Athens, Ga., unexpectedly got bumped up to the main room that afternoon because the band that was supposed to play that night got lost somewhere in a snowstorm; they still didn't draw enough people to even fill the Entry, though. A frequent Minneapolis visitor in the ensuing years, Buck at least informally joined other bands on the Entry stage in the interim, including Run Westy Run, whose Kraig Jarret Johnson opened Monday’s show.
2) Offering highlights from his own excellent new eponymous LP, Johnson’s set had its own bit of six-degrees-of-Peter-Buck. The local journeyman was joined -- without rehearsal, but no big whoop – by his Run Westy Run bandmate Terry Fisher on guitar along with drummer Peter Anderson. While Buck co-produced the Westies’ “Green Cat Island” album, Johnson and Fisher offered up a nice little tribute montage to their other well-known producer, Grant Hart, just a little over a year after his death. They offered up Hart’s “All of My Senses” and then finished with a spirited singalong version of the Westies’ Hart-produced classic “Heaven’s Not That Far Away.”
3) Monday’s gig also marked the welcome return of Arthur Buck’s bassist Scott McCaughey – not just his return to the Entry, where his early band the Young Fresh Fellows played numerous times in the ‘80s, but also his return to the road in general. The former R.E.M. touring member (who's been to town many times in recent years with the Minus 5 and Baseball Project) was sidelined by a stroke last November while he and Buck were touring with Alejandro Escovedo. McCaughey looked and sounded in great shape and seemed to be having the most fun of anyone in the room; which is really saying something. And his San Francisco Giants cap was a lot more tolerable than hearing his frequent counterpart Mike Mills whine once again about the Braves losing the ’91 series to the Twins.
4) And there was no forgetting Linda Pitmon, who’s played the Entry more than anyone else in the Arthur Buck lineup. Even behind the star power out front, the ex-Minneapolitan and former Zuzu’s Petals drummer -- who's also played in the Baseball Project in recent years with McCaughey and her husband Steve Wynn -- made a big impression anchoring the new group and maintaining its impressive tightness.
All told, though, the night was mostly all about Arthur. The 46-year-old frontman showed off his meaningful writing prowess in the politically tinged gems “Wide Awake in November” and “Are You Electrified?” He also delivered big on hooks, especially in the blistering “American Century,” a candidate for best or at least most fitting song of 2018. Arthur deftly handled lead-guitar duties more often than Buck, too, who instead added some eerie atmospheric bits to several songs using an EBow (magnetic bowing thingie), including the moodier album highlight “Can’t Make It Without You.”
After a full set of originals -- including several songs newer than the record -- Arthur & Co. played a sly, slow-grooving cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” near the end and then came back and delivered a full-impact/high-drama version of Lou Reed’s “Coney Island Baby” in the encore. Even the cover songs were cool as hell at this one.
After a thrilling set of new originals, #ArthurBuck (@josepharthur & Peter Buck) pulled out an all-guts/glory cover of Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby for their Entry encore. Great to see Scott McCaughey back out on bass too. pic.twitter.com/iYUw6ENAG2— C. Riemenschneider (@ChrisRstrib) September 25, 2018