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10 best Twin Cities concerts of 2015

The thrill of the concert experience!

The thrill of the concert experience!

10. Tie: 12 Rods (Jan. 16, First Avenue), Babes in Toyland (Jun. 21, Rock the Garden), Lifter Puller (July 4, Triple Rock) reunion shows 

Writes Erik Thompson of 12 Rods: "After signing to a major label, 12 Rods never quite had the breakout national success that they seemed destined for. They eventually broke up, and have been inactive, but influential, for years. On Friday night, the sprawling band reunited for their first show in 10 years, celebrating the re-release of their 2002 album, Lost Time. 

Vacillating between anthems laced with dissatisfaction and meandering electro-tinged pop, the enjoyable but uneven performance was a snapshot of 12 Rods' entire career. Local music fans still hold tightly to these songs, as evidenced by the large turnout. For one night, at least, 12 Rods clearly got their due."

Writes yours truly of Babes of Toyland: "I had almost zero context for Babes in Toyland prior to our cover story last week. But after being witness to the reunited hometown grunge-punk trio at the Rock the Garden, I get it. Holy hell I get it. The pummeling, triumphant set was sparked by Babes hit "Bruise Violet," a showcase for frontwoman Kat Bjelland's piercing howl and Lori Barbero's monstrous drumming. A couple technical hiccups aside, Babes in Toyland bludgeoned through a set that proved they're as vital and volatile as ever."

Writes Loren Green: "It was interesting to watch Lifter Puller, for so many reasons. First, of course, is the lineage to the Hold steady. There were a lot of first-timers there and not just people who recalled when the band played the inaugural Triple Rock show with D4 in 2003. Lifter Puller was a memory trip to 2000 and the setting was perfect.

With button-down shirts and salt-and-pepper hair, the band is still made up of the weird guys at the punk show, defined by Craig Finn’s speak-sing belting over the keyboards that drove their brand of art-punk in new directions. With a backdrop of Riverside Plaza, it was a perfect urban Minnesota environment for the group and the crowd ate it up."

Lifter Puller on July 4

Lifter Puller on July 4

9. Bully (Oct. 12, 7th Street Entry) 

Writes Alex Rice: "'You guys were the first show of this tour to sell out,” gushed Bully frontwoman Alicia Bognanno, originally from Rosemount, a few songs into her band’s set. “We really love Minneapolis a lot right now.' Bognanno & Co.'s time on stage was everything that moniker suggests — aggressive, punchy, and unrelenting. 

Bully will need to purchase a new set of snow tires in preparation for their next local gig, a just-announced Fine Line show January 18. However, considering that they’ve gone from 7th Street Entry openers to topping the bill at the Fine Line in just six months, it’s going to take a wall of snow to slow Bully’s ascent." 

8. Rhymesayers 20 (Dec. 4, Target Center)

Writes Jerard Fagerberg: "Ten-thousand-plus seats. Monstrous high-definition monitors. $8 beers and $13.50 plates of orange chicken. Odd accoutrements for an independent hip-hop showcase, but on Friday night at the Target Center, Rhymesayers showed that 20 years is a legacy strong enough to make DIY feel comfortable in a stadium setting. 

Throughout the seven-hour concert, Rhymesayers performers reacted with awe that they were even on stage at the Target Center. But as the entire cast of the night joined Atmosphere on stage for a triumphant rendition of "Trying to Find a Balance," there was no one who could've said they didn't belong there."

  1. Taylor Swift (Sept. 11, Xcel Energy Center)

    Writes yours truly: "Not blessed with a huge voice or spectacular moves, Swift compensates with all-out effort and non-stop projecting. The struts. The animated mugging. The theatrical interplay with her fleet of hunky dancers. From the get-go on 1989 cut "Welcome to New York," it was clear she's a give-it-all performer.

    Night One of Swift's Twin Cities residency made good on everything a pop spectacular should: hits, outfits, and theatrics. Her perceived insincerity, however, shrouded any real personality or point of view. The tweens in attendance, for whom it was surely the best night evvvvvvvver!, didn't seem to mind." 

    6. Doomtree Zoo (Oct. 3, CHS Field) 

Writes Ryan Warner: "This was a fantastic, one-of-a-kind event and one that could only have been hosted by Doomtree. As a Cool Guy, I’m driven by some honor code not to like the mega-popular local group, but their charisma was undeniable. I was forced to reckon with the fact that whatever my misgivings, the production was awesome in the true sense of the word. If I was 18 and growing up in the Twin Cities, I probably would have had a homemade jacket, too."

5. D'Angelo (Sept. 6, First Avenue) 

Writes Tony Libera: "Sunday night’s sold-out First Avenue show featured an artist who’s gone through a personal hell, one of random circumstance as much as his own doing, and survived. What we have in the Second Coming tour is a real-life redemption story. What’s happening on the Second Coming tour is a transformative life experience, the third act you find prevalent in so much Hollywood bullshit but rarely, if ever, witness in real life. It goes without saying both D’Angelo and the Vanguard were on point.

The band has the kind of disgusting effortless skill that makes you question your life choices and/or curse your genetic makeup, and D’s got the voice of an angel, of course, those simple, inimitable wails endowed with the universal power to make the hairs stand on end." 

Bully on Oct. 12

Bully on Oct. 12

4. Kraftwerk (October 7, Northrop)

Writes Pat O'Brien: "Wednesday night, Northrop auditorium was visited by legends, who may or may not be robots from a retro-future we’re still not advanced enough to fully understand. Electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk are on tour in 3-D, and while that may sound a little silly or pretentious or weird or a healthy mix of all three, it was perfectly suited to the bleeps, blorps, dots, loops, and clangs the band practically invented.

The standing O was telling: There aren’t very many robots I’m aware of that can conjure that sort of emotion from people at the end of their time together. Maybe Kraftwerk really are human after all." 

3. Sleater-Kinney (Feb. 14, First Avenue)

Writes Keith Harris: "No critic, however jaded, seems to reach the end of a Sleater-Kinney review without toppling into rank hyperbole, so just to balance off the fanboy gibbering to come, let's kick this off with a kvetch: More than once during Saturday night's sold-out First Avenue show, you might possibly have convinced me that I was not watching the greatest rock band of the past 20 years.  Sleater-Kinney once showed us how to harness the chaotic intensity of youth without letting it consume you; now they show us how to summon that intensity in middle-age when it threatens to dissipate. As the band proved Saturday night, there's no less glory in fighting against the tide than there is in riding the crest of the wave." 

2. Stevie Wonder (March 29, Target Center) 

Writes Keith Harris: "Stevie Wonder was in no rush. It had been 27 years since he'd last performed in the Twin Cities, after all, and anyway we were gonna be here all night — or at least till nearly midnight. Like that best-selling classic recording itself [1976 double-LP Songs in the Key of Life, which he was in town to play in its entirety], the live performance didn't simply justify its excesses but rendered them essential, expressing the star's boundless creativity and insisting that an inexhaustible abundance of joy exists in the world for anyone willing to seek it. 

Rhymesayers 20

Rhymesayers 20

His closing number, "Superstition," seemed both to last forever and to end too soon. As with the rest of the performance, it was the work of a man who demands a lot from his music, and who encourages us to do likewise." 

1. Rolling Stones (June 3, TCF Bank Stadium) 

Writes Jerard Fagerberg: "They're an institution, a lifestyle, and a near-perfect rock 'n' roll corporation. Their last three tours netted them more than the GDP of Vanuatu, for Christ's sake. So what's the use of evaluating the "World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band" as a band at all? It was far from graceful, but all the physical aspects were inconsequential. What was at hand was an intensely important concert — quite possibly the Stones' last show ever in the Twin Cities. Viewed with that fatalism, it was intoxicating. 

The Rolling Stones are an artifact. This isn't to say they're lifeless, but that they are no longer simply human. They're conduits of an incredible, expansive cultural language, which is why so many people permanently needle the Rolling Stones insignia into their keisters. It's an immutable symbol that will never die or go out of style." 

Honorable mentions: 

  • Fleetwood Mac (Jan. 16, Xcel)
  • Kacey Musgraves (Feb. 20, State Theatre)
  • Sufjan Stevens (April 22, Northrop)
  • Alabama Shakes with Father John Misty (May 30, Hall's Island)
  • Day 2 of Basilica Block Party feat. Wilco, Jason Isbell, Jenny Lewis (July 11, Basilica of St. Mary)
  • Morrissey (July 13, Fitzgerald Theater)
  • Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival (July 17-18, Eau Claire, Wisconsin)
  • TV on the Radio (July 30, First Avenue)
  • Miguel (Aug. 15, State Theatre)
  • Run the Jewels (Oct. 23, First Avenue)
  • Janet Jackson (Nov. 1, Target Center)
  • Dead & Co. (Nov. 21, Target Center)
  • Mixed Blood Majority, P.O.S, GRRRL PRTY (Dec. 11, First Avenue)