Dan Wilson at Cedar Cultural Center, 6/4/14

Dan Wilson
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

As one of the best songwriters to come from these Land of Lakes, Dan Wilson has had an amazingly long and consistent career. Wednesday, he kicked off the first of three sold-out nights at the Cedar Cultural Center. Billed as "Words and Music By Dan Wilson," the evening was an opportunity to celebrate his latest release, Love Without Fear as well as his astounding body of work.

Among his own solo work, songs he made famous with Semisonic or the endless number of songs he so generously has shared with some of the most popular voices of our time, Wilson made the intimate occasion a special moment in sharing his process and personal thoughts and stories about his music in his own modest and heartfelt way.

Rocking a full on denim outfit, Wilson took to the stage with keyboardist Brad Gordon at his side and jumped forcefully into "A Song Can Be About Anything." Functioning somewhat as a thesis to the evening, the song took off with the weight of Wilson's lyrics settling in to the audience who were wild-eyed and attentive, holding on to each word of the song.

With assured ease, Wilson put the listener into a very personal space with his ability to connect with matters of the heart. This made the opportunity for Dan to put a microscope on each song and his process all the more heartwarming.

The man so modestly displays himself and is so kind and empathetic to his audience. Well-known for his candor and pleasurable personality, throughout the night he told stories that opened up a part of himself to the audience, "I'll be playing songs then saying random things that has to do with the songs. Or maybe doesn't have to do with the songs. Might not have anything to do with songs entirely. It'll be like a game."

"I always looked at the songwriters on all the albums and eventually decided I wanted to be one of those names. I wanted my name where Carole King was." Telling the story of working with King on Semisonic's "One True Love" he admitted to being nervous and a bit lost for words. "All that came out was 'My Mother is a big fan!' She told me that made her feel old."

Undeniably sweet, Wilson's songs touch listener's hearts in a special way, the result of careful reflections of the varied aspects of love.

Wilson described his first "musical blind date" with the Dixie Chicks and the evolution of their massive hit, "Not Ready to Make Nice" he penned for them. "I wanted the song to be more forgiving, more conciliatory. Natalie asked if the song 'Would forgive all the people that fucked us?' No!"


Playing a few bars of "Undivided," he showed his favorite songwriting trick of jumping an octave. The foolproof maneuver opened up some humorous insight into his own approach of pop delivery as he confessed that is all he ever wanted to set out to do is playing two particular notes in every song. Settling down, Wilson played a breathtaking version of the undeniably beautiful "Easy Silence", holding out each note he sang with every last inch of breath.

Telling more stories of being a parent, dream diaries and the piles of note cards he keeps of words for song ideas, Wilson continued to connect with the heavily female audience in what he described as his relationships with many strong women. Gliding into a soulful version of Adele's "Someone Like You," Wilson embodied the song with his own voice. As his own song, he gave it more personal depth and meaning that made everyone in attendance truly feel the words. It was a special moment in the evening that wasn't lost on anyone.

Confessing to needing the challenge of writing "pure loving songs," Wilson handed out the best songwriting advice possible, "Write a song appropriate for a wedding." To laughs and extra cheer, he lead the audience in a sing along during a very heartwarming "All Kinds."

Overflowing with a wonderful spirit the audience was treated to an encore in which Wilson's former bandmate drummer Jacob Slichter joined on tambourine for Neil Young's "Out on the Weekend." Finally, Slichter fired off the unmistakable keyboard line of "Singing in My Sleep" for a highly satisfying wind up to the night.

It's truly remarkable the ability of Dan Wilson's songwriting. His approach in reaching hearts and music lovers worldwide with the variety of people he's collaborated and written for is highly unique. The level at which the man can craft, Wilson possesses a very high batting average with each addition to his songbook. The guy can write songs.

Critic's Bias: Really wanted to hear "The Great Escape" which Dan wrote for my idol, P!nk.

The Crowd: Really enraptured with Dan's words and music for the whole night.

Overheard in the Crowd: "This guy has to be getting checks in the mail, left and right, every day."

Random Notebook Dump: Chastity Brown provided the excellent support act for the evening. Joined solely by keyboardist, Devon Gray, the two found groove and brilliant ambiance for Chastity's own growing catalog of personal and sweet melodies.

Setlist provided by Dan Wilson to everyone after the show:

53 things you might not know about Prince
73 things you might not know about Bob Dylan
Brother Ali: My fans are kicking the sh*t out of me over Trayvon Martin

Here's why we didn't sign the Foo Fighters photo waiver
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list