Welcome to a special turbo edition of Over the Weekend, which for a variety of reasons (migraines, power outages and lost files, oh my!) includes a wrap-up of Thursday evening's R.E.M. show in addition to this weekend's performances by the Evening Rig, Chris Koza, and more.
R.E.M., Modest Mouse, and the National Xcel Energy Center, June 5
It was surprising to see how few people turned out for the R.E.M. show. Half of the arena was closed off, and even still the roughly 6,000 people in attendance barely filled up the upper tiers. The room was especially sparse at the beginning of the evening, as the National played to a rather apathetic crowd, making it difficult to feel involved in their set from my seat toward the back of the room.
I know that the National made everyone's year-end lists in 2007; I know that they have become the indie world's latest darlings and that seemingly every critic in the country salivates over their lush, sensitive rock. But for some reason, I couldn't wait for their set to end. As is par for the course with three-band arena shows, the National were crammed toward the front edge of the stage amidst the cloaked gear of the other two acts, and the awkward staging coupled with their slow-tempo rock and lackluster stage presence made for a less than captivating performance.
Modest Mouse upped the ante a bit, playing mostly from their two most recent albums, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank and Good News For People Who Love Bad News. Surprisingly, they chose not to play their major radio hit, "Float On," and the crowd still seemed a bit distracted despite the fact that Modest Mouse were full of energy and intensity.
Michael Stipe at the Xcel. See more of James Tran's photos from the evening in our slideshow.
There's a theme running through all R.E.M.-related press releases and articles lately that the band is amidst "a comeback." This publicist-fueled assertion is annoying for a few reasons, the biggest of which is that I don't remember a time when R.E.M. ever fell completely off anyone's radar, and during their performance at the Xcel the band showed us why they are a flat-out fantastic rock band with staying power.
Michael Stipe was in especially good spirits Thursday night, which he confessed was due to the fact that he was excited to play the same venue that Barack Obama has visited two nights prior. "I've been busting out to say this," he gushed between songs," but I am so excited to be here. Something historic happened in this building two nights ago: Barack Obama claimed the nomination of the Democratic Party. And you people put him there. Thank you for that!"
Stipe made a lot of quick comments between songs, but he seemed to rush through his stage banter so that the band could launch into another song. The group played for nearly two hours, with songs spanning their entire career, focusing especially on this year's politically-charged Accelerate, and ending the night with a five-song encore that featured the hits "Losing My Religion," "Fall on Me" and "Man on the Moon."
The Evening Rig and the 757s Turf Club, June 6
The Evening Rig show the crowd how it's done. Photo by Andrea Myers.
The alcohol was flowing freely at the HowWasTheShow.com 6th anniversary party Friday night, making it the perfect time to catch the Evening Rig. Simply put, the Evening Rig are a great bar band, and they embody everything holy and sacred about their Minneapolis rock predecessors, specifically the Replacements. Which isn't to say that the Rig are consciously ripping off any one element of the 'Mats or anybody's sound; but there is a familiarity in their loose, reckless, and jovial vibe and the way their songs make perfect soundtracks for slugging beers and giving friends good solid pats on the back.
The 757s continued the evening's tradition of eardrum-rattling rock, sending the wimps down into the Clown Lounge for refills while the rest of us scrambled to locate our earplugs. The band is made up of a who's-related-to-whom collection of local musicians, including Paul Pirner, Seth Zimmerman and Jimmy Peterson, and they played a set of heavy-yet-danceable rock that peaked with their best song, "1981."
Chris Koza First Avenue, June 7
Chris Koza's CD release show for The Dark, Delirious Morning was everything I'd hoped: top-notch sound, a sizeable and energetic crowd, and a slew of special guests. With each new album Koza seems to add more layers to his constantly-evolving style of folky indie pop, and Saturday's show featured a keyboard player, backup singers and a small string section in addition to his regular ensemble of guitar, bass, and drums.
Despite the fact that the stage swelled to hold up to eight or nine different musicians, including a very special appearance by JoAnna James (who recently relocated to Los Angeles and flew in just for the show), there was no doubt that this show was all about Koza. The group played the new album almost in its entirety, holding off until the end of the set to sprinkle in favorites from 2006's well-received Patterns. Whether he played new material or dug out old gems, the crowd of roughly 600 clung to Koza's every note and bit of stage banter, lending to the feel-good vibe of an evening spent with one of the city's most promising young songwriters.