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Har Mar Superstar nails new sound, basks in hometown love at First Ave

Har Mar Superstar, noted friend of City Pages, on Friday at First Ave

Har Mar Superstar, noted friend of City Pages, on Friday at First Ave

You know what they say: sex sells. And Har Mar Superstar is a super salesman.

For about an hour and a half Friday night, the real-life Sean Tillmann sang, danced, swiveled his hips, and told a sold-out First Avenue how much he loved Minneapolis — his new/old hometown — and all of us. He told us that a lot.

After the Owatonna native and his band finished the funky, horn-driven opener, “Prisoner,” he paused to take in his surroundings and said, “Thank you, Minneapolis. I love you so fucking much.” And then he apologized to his onlooking mother for swearing.

The evolution of Sean Tillmann is an interesting one. When he started recording Har Mar albums in 1999, he seemed like more of a movie character than a musician. Some people got it and laughed, some people didn’t get it and thought, "Who is this person singing in his underwear and why is he dancing like that?"   

Ultimately, Har Mar is too talented to be a movie character. He’s deviated from wacky underwear guy to guy that makes amazing, horn-filled, pop-a-licious music that provokes capacity crowds to dance and smile the night away.

Har Mar was having fun from the start Friday, and his outfits (mumu, cutoff T-shirt, sheer top, no top at all) were on point. As the screen rose and the horns started blasting “Prisoner,” we saw Tillmann, back turned to the audience, rocking a pair of Aztec leggings and a multi-colored leather jacket with a football on the back. He peered over his shoulder, started singing, and the crowd went crazy.

The set list was solid and mostly consisted of songs from 2013’s matured Bye Bye 17 and his upcoming, Julian Casablancas-produced album, Best Summer Ever. Due out next week, the new LP appears to pick up where Bye Bye left off — thoughtful songs that make people wanna jive. A number of tracks on Best Summer were co-written with industry heavyweights Casablancas (“Youth Without Love”), Karen O (“Cut Me Up”), and Bobby Charles (“I Hope”). They were a blast to hear live. 

This iteration of Har Mar isn’t just an over-the-top sexpot. He’s making great music. Yes, the old Har Mar is still there. The smirk is there. The provocative dancing is there. The fun-loving performer still takes the stage.

But over the past few years, the band behind him has started playing infectious pop songs that Tillmann sings all too well. The quirky/lusty R&B salesman hasn’t sold out — he’s just selling a better product. And on Friday night at First Avenue everyone was buying.

Check out more photos from the fun-filled show here.

Critic's bias: A few friends and I saw Har Mar open for the Strokes in 2002. We were among many in the Milwaukee audience expressing our distaste for the material off his first record. Needless to say, I didn’t dive too far into his second album, 2009's Dark Touches. However, I love Bye Bye 17 and what I’ve heard from Best Summer Ever. It’s so good.

The crowd: It felt like a college party for 30-year-olds. Most of the audience members seemed to be enjoying the show thoroughly while cheering on their hometown buddy.

Overheard in the crowd: “Thanks for upholding Minnesota nice!" — yelled at a guy who noticed that a dude absolutely insisted on buying a stranger a beer after accidentally knocking said stranger’s Summit EPA to the floor.

Random notebook dump: Noted between opener, Solid Gold, and Har Mar: A person to my left is sleeping, the person behind me is crying. Where am I?