André Cymone at 7th St Entry, 3/16/14

André Cymone
with American Youth
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
Sunday, March 16, 2014

It's been 27 years since the release of André Cymone's last solo album, A.C., which featured his R&B hit "The Dance Electric." Last night's CD release for his latest record, The Stone, also served as a celebratory homecoming for the Minneapolis-raised musician. The '80s found Cymone in full-on New Wave mode, but his recent output diverges into primarily rock territory, which was greeted with open ears at a packed Entry show on Sunday night.

See Also: Slideshow: Andrè Cymone at the 7th St Entry, 3/16/14

Openers American Youth initially seemed like a strange choice to open for the former Minneapolis funk maven, but their bar-rock and country western-tinged Americana served to prepare the audience for Cymone's new direction. Commanding a big sound that played better the twangier it got, the five-piece local rock band ran through a solid set that didn't overstay its welcome. 

André Cymone and his backing band took stage shortly afterward to cheers from an audience clearly stoked about his return. Cymone stated in interviews that he's looking at his return to songwriting as a fresh start of sorts, and his set reflected that mindset by sticking almost exclusively to new material. His distinctive style of songwriting is still evident in every track, but the songs are heavy on guitars and drums, and carry more of a rock bombast than a Minneapolis Sound swing.

Cymone's singing voice brought a smoothness to every track, which -- coupled with some great guitar playing and onstage swagger -- made for an entertaining and youthful stage show. The intimate space allowed the audience to feel like they could talk directly to André, who would talk back and carry on with plenty of playful banter. It can be risky taking such an extended period off from making music, but Cymone felt at home onstage thanks to a warm and welcoming crowd.

Brandishing a series of different guitars, Cymone switched the style up often enough to bring some nice variety to his songs, but the best moments were songs like "Radio" and "Naked," which felt especially lively ("When I get confused and I need some time to think, I go to the highest hill, or the highest mountain I can find, and I get naked"). The more down-tempo and spacey tracks like "Mary Jane" and "The Horseman" carried a warm Los Angeles vibe that definitely stood out from his '80s output.
It was too bad there wasn't more attention given to Cymone's early material, which the older crowd likely would've appreciated, but it seemed important to Cymone to make the distinction between the periods. He trotted out his 1982 classic "Kelly's Eyes," from Livin' in the New Wave, as his singular encore, but even then the track took on a rockabilly vibe that set it apart from the synth-heavy original. "Kelly's married somewhere with about four or five kids," he said to preface the song. "She's evolved; I feel the song should evolve too."

It was refreshing to see an audience open-minded enough to trust the artist to work in whatever direction he desires. Cymone's move from funk frontman to behind-the-boards producer after A.C. may have been influenced by Prince's tendency to overshadow other famed Minneapolis artists, but his new work feels entirely his own. There was a good energy in the air and it was clear the people really believed in Cymone as his own entity instead of just someone who spewed out his former hits.
His legacy and past music remains unforgettable, but there's something powerful in his reemergence as a straight-ahead rock writer. Along with assistance from an excellent and highly capable band, Cymone owned the stage simply by being comfortable in his own skin and with his new sound. While I might have preferred to have a little bit of the old André Cymone injected in somewhere, it was refreshing to see an artist staging a comeback on the strength of his own convictions and belief in his songwriting. He may have literally and sonically moved away from Minneapolis, but he'll always have a homebase here and he'll always be welcome back.

Personal Bias:
I have a preference for Cymone's '80s material, but a respect for why he'd want to switch things up.

The Crowd: A range of older fans packed the place.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Justin Bieber's a brat now, because he started too young!"


Rock and Roll
Let Your Sun Shine
If Not for You
American Dream
It's Alright
One Day
The Horseman
Mary Jane
Kelly's Eyes

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