A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
The Suburbs and Cheap Trick, Mankato. Great one-two punch at the wonderful Vetter Stone Amphitheater. Robin Zander of Cheap Trick still holds his own vocally.
Tab Benoit, Bayfield, Wis. His great guitar playing and soulful gravelly voice are a perfect fit for the Cabooze, his regular haunt, but he delighted many first timers when he played under the "blue canvas" at Big Top Chautauqua.
Erik Koskinen Band, the Icehouse. I was an Icehouse virgin, and I came away very satisfied with the sound and sightlines of this small music room on Eat Street in Minneapolis. A wonderful place to witness J.T. Bates' prowess on the drum kit.
Michael Myhra, St. Peter
Maddie & Tae, "Start Here." They won us over with the cheeky protest ditty "Girl in a Country Song," which went to No. 1 on the country charts. Now this girl duo convinces us on their debut album, which is fresh and traditional, sort of like a teen version of the early Dixie Chicks. Favorite song: "Shut Up and Fish," a playful put-down of a slick city dude who is trying to get his romance on.
"Forbidden Nights," Darlene Love video. Elvis Costello penned this new boardwalk soul song for the voice of so many Phil Spector hits. In this video, Love cruises in her Caddy convertible, picking up Joan Jett and Paul Shaffer en route to a Boardwalk beach party. Others making cameos in the clip are Bill Murray, David Letterman, Steven Van Zandt and Costello.
Bettye LaVette, the Dakota. Even though her voice sounded raw, the stunning musical stylist filled her songs with deeply felt emotion. Her set surveyed her career, with her band sounding more prominent and effective than at any of her many Dakota shows. Highlights: "Just Between You and Me and the Wall, You're a Fool" and "Love, Reign O'er Me."
Jon Bream, Star Tribune