Metric, Heart and Mary J. Blige at Lilith Fair, 7/18/10

Metric, Heart and Mary J. Blige at Lilith Fair, 7/18/10
Metric / Alex Uncapher for City Pages

Summer means two things in the Twin Cities: going "up north" and outdoor concert season, both activities releasing all the built-up cabin fever that comes along with being a Minnesotan. From the Basilica and Luce block parties to Stone Arch and Lyn-Lake fests to Taste of Minnesota and Soundset, we are unabashed festival mongers in this town, eager to take advantage of that miniscule window of time where the weather finally gives us a break. So, a few weeks ago when it was announced that Lilith Fair, which was to return to the Twin Cities after a decade, would move from the fields of Canterbury to the dark hole that is the Target Center, there were more than a few disappointed groans. But thankfully some incredible performances more than made up for any atmospheric limitations. 

Metric, Heart and Mary J. Blige at Lilith Fair, 7/18/10
Metric / Alex Uncapher for City Pages

With her wispy blonde hair blowing and legs looking like shiny toothpicks, Metric's Emily Haines definitely brought the fire late Sunday afternoon, kicking off what was to be a string of inspired sets stretching well into the evening. Wearing a loose top over a sequin-pleated skirt and sequined high-heels, Haines ripped through "Gold Guns Girls" (featuring an insane solo by guitarist Jimmy Shaw) and "Gimme Symphathy" at the front of her set, dominating a  monosynth when she wasn't slinking about the stage on the mic.

"What's up, ladies!" Haines shouted with her fist in the air, finishing an energetic rendition of "Dead Disco" to an entirely seated ground floor, a sore reminder of the venue change. After a sad smattering of cheers when she praised Lilith organizer Sarah McLachlan for "bringing us together," one hoped the venue's chairs would suddenly all collapse and we'd be forced to stand like civilized music appreciators. But alas, we're mere lazy humans after all. 

Metric, Heart and Mary J. Blige at Lilith Fair, 7/18/10
Heart / Alex Uncapher for City Pages

The Lilith audience started coming to life after a spirited alt-country hoedown by Court Yard Hounds (The Dixie Chicks minus the short one who famously dissed Bush) that culminated with "Ain't No Son" and some intense fiddling, meaning it was now time for sisterly duo Heart to take the stage. Nancy Wilson's grating guitar riffs wailed out on opening number "Barracuda," a stunning start to what would be a memorable 50 minutes:

Dressed in all black and looking years younger than 54 and 60, the ladies of Heart tore through "Straight On" and "Even It Up" -- the latter featuring an impromptu chorus from the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" -- and then launched into a 3-song mini-set of tracks from their new album, Red Velvet Car (debuting Aug. 31). Miffed, the audience sat. Some even had the nerve to yell "PLAY 'ALONE!' while Ann was introducing the songs and giving us backstory.  But fans got their way, not before new tracks "WTF" ("About little talks you have with yourself when you've just screwed up"), and "Hey You." Though the duo's slowed, acoustic performance of "Alone" was not nearly as beastly as many surely expected, it truly showed off Ann's robust howl:

Heart finished with "Crazy On You" and "Magic Man" featuring live electronic effects from a distracting keyboardist whose gothic ensemble and plucky pigtails made her look like she was teleported straight out of Guitar Hero -- the only thing we could have done without. Our only wish unfulfilled: They didn't play "Never" or "Who Will You Run To", a small thing compared to witnessing these sisters show off their legendary rock n' roll prowess, something next pefromer Mary J. Blige said she was inspired by when watching Heart on MTV in the '80s.

Metric, Heart and Mary J. Blige at Lilith Fair, 7/18/10
Heart / Alex Uncapher for City Pages

"Heyyyyy Minneapolis!" the queen of hip-hop soul crooned as she strutted on stage in a leopard print jumpsuit and gold jewelry, her hair a yellowy blonde and cut short in her 90s throwback style. Blige seemed in an unstoppably good mood, which not only won over the stands but shined through in her performance from start to finish. After coming out the gate with "Real Love" featuring a 30 second mini-tribute to B.I.G., Blige announced that she wanted to "do something special."

Metric, Heart and Mary J. Blige at Lilith Fair, 7/18/10
Mary J Blige / Jen Boyles for City Pages

"I am so blessed," Blige started. "When I was a little girl growing up in the projects and not knowing who I am, where I was going or what I was doing and not knowing I was Mary J. Blige the superstar, later on in life that confusion caused me to get some information about myself where I said, 'Maybe I need help.' I got the help I needed and God blessed me, and there were amazing people who spoke on my behalf and said "Oh my god, I love this girl."

U2's Bono was one of those people and gave her permission to perform "One", which she said is a longtime favorite. So then Mary did just that, and what came out of that mouth of hers was as powerful as any gospel singer this writer's ever seen, if not more so. It was emotional, crisp and clean but dripping with soul. And if that cover wasn't enough, she followed it with Led Zepplin's "Stairway To Heaven", and a preachy but inspiring "No Drama" and "Be Without You", which she said was a song she wrote when she realized she "loved someone other than myself." A big personality to match an even bigger voice.

Lilith drew to a close around 11:30 p.m. with Sarah McLachlan closing out the evening (sorry to the S.M. fans, I appreciate her promoter efforts but not so much behind the mic), and surely most of the audience came away with some great music memories, even if they didn't involve patchouli, grass stains and stuff on a stick.


Critic's Bias: Prefer '80s Heart to '70s Heart but know that's not popular opinion.
The Crowd: Unmoved at first and sporting a variety of daring haircuts
Overheard In The Crowd: "Do you think there are a lot of man-haters here?"
Random Notebook Dump: "The hole of Ann's guitar is shaped like a heart. Awesome."

Heart setlist:
Straight On
Even It Up
Hey You
Alone (acoustic)
Magic Man
Crazy On You

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