Michael Myhra of St. Peter, Minn.:
1 Todd Snider, the Fitzgerald. The bad boy of Americana canceled some dates right before this St. Paul show, but he did not appear any worse for wear. He was as witty and engaging as ever during and in between songs.
2 Jonathan Byrd, Windom, Minn. One of today’s best songwriters, he brought his Southern brand of folk music to BARC Center, and it was a great show. He was backed by his Pickup Cowboys featuring multi-instrumentalist Johnny Waken, who is one of the best saw players alive.
3 Kristin Chenoweth, Orchestra Hall. She was down-to-Earth and a bit redneck between songs, then transformed herself into the Broadway star she is. Her vocal range was impressive on a program of mostly show tunes with an occasional touch of opera. A couple of chill-inducing moments were experienced. She was backed by the always wonderful Minnesota Orchestra.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Liv Warfield, Judith Hill and Shelby J, the Dakota. These three Prince protégées would have made him proud. Warfield was a versatile powerhouse. Hill has blossomed into a complete artist. And Shelby J was the real discovery, a gritty, earthy, soulful force.
2 Zara Larsson interview, Entertainment Weekly. The 19-year-old Swedish pop star is principled and fearless: “Women’s rights are more important than my career. And if my career dies because I said something political? I don’t want to live in that world.”
3 Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, the Dakota. For two nights, they delivered joy-generating Jersey rock ’n’ soul. The first night was longer (140 minutes) and Johnny was funnier, but Night 2 had “Walk Away Renee” and a killer cover of the Stones’ “Happy” that would have made Keith Richards very happy indeed.