Mark Lindberg of Minneapolis:
1 Farm Aid 2019, Alpine Valley, Wis. Went for the music, left with inspiration. Amid several great performances, the versatile Lukas Nelson wowed, showing that he and his band will be able to carry the load for the inevitable 35th edition in 2020.
2 Bruce Cockburn, the Cedar. What a thrill to finally see this prolific singer-songwriter, whose vivid and topical lyrics are matched only by his intense acoustic rhythms and intricate picking. He’s 74? No way!
3 Mark Knopfler, Milwaukee. Touring behind his fine new recording, “Down the Road Wherever,” he and his merry band mixed new and old, including deep tracks from the Dire Straits catalog, for a sublime evening.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 “Mean Girls,” the Orpheum. Think of this as a high school musical written by the often brilliant Tina Fey and her composer husband Jeff Richmond. Some Fey zingers, strong female singing voices and a terrific tap-dance number starring Eric Huffman make this timeless tale of school cliques come alive.
2 Billy Cobham, the Dakota. On a rewarding night of jazz-rock fusion featuring trumpeter Randy Brecker and bassoonist Paul Hanson, it was the riveting drum solo during “Spanish Moss” by Cobham, 75, arguably fusion’s greatest drummer, that was the highlight.
3 Andrew Bird, the Palace. While his violin and whistling added intriguing textures to his arty chamber pop, it was his acoustic bluegrassy numbers, harmonizing with guitarist Madison Cunningham, that made the last night of this tour feel special, especially when he stretched the set to 25 tunes, including the jazzy “Caravan” and the graceful “Gentle on My Mind.”