After more diverse outings in its first two years, Twin Cities Summer Jam turned to a nearly all-male, all-country-music lineup for its third annual run at Canterbury Park in Shakopee this past weekend.
How ironic, then, that the person who wound up stealing the show at the three-day festival this year was a woman.
Gwen Stefani trotted out halfway through her husband Blake Shelton's headlining set Saturday night, and at last it felt like the concert was off to the races. Many of the 15,000 fans reacted as if they had won the Pick Six bet at the horse track that once again hosted the ambitious music festival.
The former No Doubt singer and Shelton's co-star on "The Voice" came out to the tune of her old band's 1995 hit "Don't Speak." She stuck around for two of her and Shelton's recent, romantic duets, "Nobody But You" and "Happy Anywhere."
The title of that latter song certainly rang true given that the California singer had traveled to a horse track in Shakopee to be with Shelton on Saturday.
"You're welcome, Minnesota," her husband said after she left the stage, then self-deprecatingly deadpanned: "Now comes the part of the show where Gwen's finished and I'm still up here."
Things didn't exactly peter out, but attendees who left after that to beat traffic — worsened by road construction near Canterbury — definitely saw the best parts. Shelton also was joined by his opener and pal Trace Adkins for two songs earlier in the set, despite each taking jabs when the other was off stage.
"The reason I drove all the way up here to play is because I thought you people deserved a lot better than Trace Adkins," Shelton cracked. Adkins, meanwhile, referred to the headliner as "Ol' Stupid;" a name Shelton did not exactly disown with a couple of Saturday's song selections ("Honey Bee" and "Boys 'Round Here").
Because of stormy mid-afternoon weather, Southern classic-rockers 38 Special — the third-best-known act on Saturday's lineup (at least to folks older than 58) — did not get to perform. That made the day entirely a twang fest, with tough-outside/teddy-bear-inside Kentucky singer Elvie Shane rounding out the main stage, while local cover band Mason Dixon Line impressively hammered through getting-hammered anthems such as Eric Church's "Drink in My Hand" on the small stage.
The weather turned golden Saturday night, but it looked as if TC Summer Jam organizers are still waiting for the clouds to part after the COVID-19 pandemic stalled their 2019-originated plans to become the biggest show in town in 2020 and 2021.
Friday's lineup with hot, new country star Kane Brown saw a smaller crowd of around 12,500 people, and only around 4,500 watched metal tribute act Hairball headline Thursday.
The festival still came up short in nonmusical entertainment (only one cornhole game at a country fest?!) and in the concessions department (not much variety or local flavor in food or alcohol). The stage, sound and video might be the only attributes at Summer Jam that are top-shelf.