The 20 Best Twin Cities Concerts of 2014

We had the time of our lives at so many shows in 2014.

We had the time of our lives at so many shows in 2014.

This past year in Twin Cities concerts had plenty of musical keepsakes -- those moments that were bigger than the sound, and more intricate than life itself. It was a year of legends, as well as legends in the making. In fact, it was so loud that the Minneapolis City Council passed an earplugs ordinance.

Gimme Noise takes a fond look back with our Top 20 concerts of 2014.

See Also:
Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)

20. Arcade Fire at Target Center, March 8

"Big-strumming rockers like 'Joan of Arc,' 'Rococo' (with a riff on Lady Gaga's 'Do What U Want' inserted) and 'The Suburbs' were best suited for Butler's brute force on the guitar, and he seemed most comfortable with an instrument in his hand. The distilled moment that looked and felt most like a big-ticket event was the Neon Bible standout 'No Cars Go.' All that was missing was Chris Martin frolicking onstage. With Chassagne on accordion on one side and his workhorse multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Perry on the other, Butler called 'Let's go!' triumphantly out to the crowd. And they did!" -- Reed Fischer

19. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at State Theatre, April 9


"Making a huge entrance with lead single 'Stranger to My Happiness' back to back with 'You'll Be Lonely,' Jones wasted no time whatsoever gathering the crowd into the palm of her hand. Shimmying across the stage with the spry movements of woman half her age, Sharon is the type of utterly magnetic performer that seems to find the process of entertaining an audience as natural as breathing between notes. Winking sassily at a photog, Jones reeled him in for a kiss without missing a beat of the Dap Kings' precisely charted stings. During the outro to the rare 45 rpm single 'Calamity,' the singer challenged bassist Bosco Mann (aka Daptone head honcho Gabriel Roth) to a call and response duel on their respective instruments. Sharon won. Of course she did. When it comes to singing, Sharon always wins." -- Zach McCormick

18. Pearl Jam at Xcel Energy Center, October 19

"The people paid to hear some tumultuous rock 'n' roll, after all, too. The shifting dynamics of 'I Got Id' (after a 'Hey Joe' riff nodding to Jimi Hendrix), sludge paradise of 'Corduroy,' and main set closer 'Rearviewmirror' was ready to run off the rails. Many a cherished guitar god never came up with anything as creative -- and as hard to pull off live -- as any of those songs. Even with a voice that sometimes came up damaged, Vedder let his physicality push his bandmates forward." -- Reed Fischer

17. FKA Twigs at Fine Line, November 14

"The stage remained intentionally low-lit, highlighting certain beats of songs with flashes of white light amidst a thick backdrop of fog. The stage show was brutally simple, casting the players as shadows amidst a well-choreographed light show while the music wormed its way into listeners' heads. Her voice, movements, and mystique were the focal points, and all were strong enough to make for one of the best stage shows in live music today." -- Jack Spencer

16. St. Vincent at State Theatre, April 3

"While the rest of the body of St. Vincent shuffled her feet in minuscule steps or rhythmically bowed like a drinking bird, her fingers were mischievous all over her electric guitar's fingerboard. Fusillades of screeching, squalling whammy bar bombs exploded throughout the night. The Kraftwerk-y whirring of 'Every Tear Disappears' was one of many successes of a struggle to overcome her self-imposed constraints. Clark ripped the song's circuitry apart with her solo, and kept her momentum rising with wailing bits in 'Surgeon' and a pissed-off 'Cheerleader.'" -- Reed Fischer


15. Soundset at Canterbury Park, May 25

"The seventh edition of Rhymesayers Entertainment's Soundset Festival brought clouds of dirt mixed with sweet-smelling smoke, rumbling bass, and a sold-out crowd of 30,000. Ticket-wise, this was the most-successful Soundset to date, but it still brought a lot of artistic complexity from the clean-cut G-Eazy to the riotous Flatbush Zombies. The day was represented by legends from different eras, courtesy of Nas, Cypress Hill, and Atmosphere. Wiz Khalifa is one of the game's biggest stars today, and Chance the Rapper is well on his way, and Lizzo, Toki Wright, and others showed the power of the local stage." -- Reed Fischer

14. Garth Brooks at Target Center, November 6

"Detractors call Garth's gift of convincing an arenaful of admirers that he exists solely for their delight "pandering," because an attempt at seduction always seems pathetic when you rebuff it. But his decade-plus of hits is as thrilling as any pop star's, and at the first of his 11 Target Center shows -- and his first Minneapolis performance since he stopped touring in 1998 -- we got to hear just about all of them in about two hours, because you don't get to be Garth Brooks by disappointing your fans. (That's how you get to be Chris Gaines.)" -- Keith Harris

13. Sharon Van Etten at First Avenue, July 16

"Van Etten has the rare ability to hold your heart in her hands with each song she sings, while her convivial between-song chatter makes it seem like you've been best friends since grade school. After praising Glam Doll Donuts and admitting that she was riding a big sugar high, Van Etten switched to keys as the group was momentarily reduced to a trio with Broderick and Jessee for a stunning version of "I Love You But I'm Lost." Van Etten playfully described it as "another optimistic ballad," but the song was far more than just another number, as its unguarded emotions elegantly washed over the crowd." -- Erik Thompson

12. Slowdive at Fine Line, October 31

"The scary things about their 100-minute performance, however, had nothing to do with costumes -- singer/guitarist Neil Halstead's spine-tingling lead vocals, his female counterpart Rachel Goswell's haunting vocal harmonies, bassist Nick Chaplin's sinister low-end, guitarist Christian Savill's guitar noodling with the precision of a serial killer's knife, Simon Scott's monstrous drum hits that suggested Godzilla was next door." -- Alex Rice

11. Elvis Costello at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium, June 9


"For well-traveled songs like 'Watching the Detectives,' which he has played nightly for most of his career, Costello sent visible shivers up and down our spines by deconstructing the melody a bit and letting experimental guitar work tell the story. The looping dissonant soloing between verses heightened the foreboding aspects of his composition. This wasn't any Bob Dylan-style guessing game. Even if he changed his tune, the lyrical components were still front-and-center to fawn over." -- Reed Fischer


10. Fleetwood Mac at Target Center, September 30

"Fleetwood Mac have such a stellar back catalog that their opening string of songs would be saved for encores by most other bands. 'Dreams,' 'Second Hand News,' and 'Rhiannon' got the show started strongly, and the quintet never looked back. The latter featured a triptych of curved screens filled with expansive natural vistas as well as images of Ophelia sinking in her doomed water." -- Erik Thompson

9. Run the Jewels at Fine Line, November 20

"Arriving to the sounds of Queen's 'We Are the Champions,' the pair effortlessly showcased why they've made such waves with their latest endeavor, playing a set that powerfully combined the efforts of two already captivating live artists. Every lyric seemed to be written specifically to be delivered with the loud, razor-sharp voicing of Killer Mike and El-P's explosive live flows. Vibing off one another's rhythms, they had an intensity rarely seen in rap, maintaining a gigantic presence from start to finish." -- Jack Spencer

8. Ryan Adams at Northrop Auditorium, October 13


"Over time, Adams has crested both on purpose and accidentally with melodies that get stuck in our ears and observations that lodge themselves in our hearts. One such pairing was the unintentional 9/11 anthem 'New York, New York.' The band sat back and let him roll it out acoustically, with a harmonica roaring like the peak of rush hour at Grand Central Station. That moment alone was enough to make the concert a keeper." -- Reed Fischer

7. The War On Drugs at First Avenue, September 22

"They opened with the slow-burning 'In Reverse' from this year's Lost in the Dream and floated into "Under the Pressure," the newest single from the album. Two songs had eaten up roughly 12 minutes of the night in what seemed like 90 seconds -- just what sort of wizardry were these gentlemen working with? 'Baby Missiles' from 2011's Slave Ambient followed. During that song, the feeling stirred that nobody who engages even passively with this band can escape: It's an acute nostalgia for a past that maybe wasn't your own, coupled with elation and sadness -- all at once." -- Pat O'Brien

6. Neutral Milk Hotel at First Avenue, February 10

"'All secrets sleep in winter clothes,' Jeff Mangum sang affectionately in a truly moving version of 'In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,' one of many lines that resonated with an audience all too familiar with the crippling effects of the colder months and how that can cause us all to retreat within ourselves for warmth and comfort. As the deafening ovation died down a bit, Mangum again held his hand over his heart, saying, 'Thank you, my good friends.' Koster then took a moment to express his appreciation to everyone who braved the brutally cold weather to come out to the show: 'Thank you to all of you who stood out in a cold line today just to be up front. We're all in awe of your devotion, honestly.'" -- Erik Thompson


5. Future Islands at Triple Rock, March 28


"Keyboardist Gerrit Welmers, bassist William Cashion, and touring drummer Michael Lowry proved as understated of a supporting cast as any. Fusing together New Wave nostalgia, more-recent electronica, and avant-rock flourishes, Future Islands' piercing synthesizer notes, quavering bass lines, and beats -- oh, the beats -- locked together tighter with each song. Meanwhile, Samuel Herring gradually tore himself apart." -- Reed Fischer

4. Ms. Lauryn Hill at First Avenue, June 30

"Looking stunning in a flowing black dress and a fantastically large hat, Lauryn stood radiant and confident, dancing and making subtle conducting gestures to the guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboardist, and trio of back-up singers. Her role as bandleader could be heard throughout the set, as nearly every song went through multiple genre and tempo changes without missing a beat. As the band flipped sections around, Lauryn pushed her presence forward and gave a very strong vocal performance." -- Jack Spencer

3. The Replacements at Midway Stadium, September 13

"While there was much discussion as to how the band would choose to open their first local gig in 23 years, they couldn't have picked a better number than 'Favorite Thing.' Shaking off the dust, Westy and Tommy belted the greatest 'Mats rocker that nobody remembers before tearing into a trio of early tunes that set a brisk pace for what would become a marathon performance. Before changing gears to 'I'll Be You' and the smoky 'Valentine,' Westerberg ruefully muttered, 'Sorry it took us song,' to which Tommy cracked an observant 'No you ain't!'" -- Zach McCormick

2. Paul McCartney at Target Field, August 2

"So many of McCartney's songs with the Beatles, Wings, and solo are blessed and cursed with their overwhelming hugeness. These moments on tape aren't just soundtracking Wes Anderson films, they're the indelible accompaniments to weddings, breakups, births, and deaths. All that potential emotional upheaval and drama at one's fingertips is more artistic firepower throughout a set than most acts can pack into an encore. ("If I don't do 'Hey Jude' I've missed an opportunity," he told the BBC last year.) When played back-to-back in the same order each night based upon a rigid setlist required for detailed lighting, stage, and pyrotechnic cues, it's much tougher to create spontaneity. Then again, such expertly rehearsed stagecraft has its own magic." -- Reed Fischer

1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at State Theatre, June 21


"The entire performance was a physical and mental workout for Cave, who set out to exorcise demons from his past with each number, while awakening some ghosts in the audience. That dark communion continued throughout the night. By the time Cave dug deep for a three-decades-old gem from The Firstborn Is Dead, 'Tupelo,' he grew tired of being merely watched and adored by the audience. So he stepped atop the seats through the middle of the first 15 rows, singing his disquieting tale while the crowd held him up. We became unified in the moment as one sordid congregation, and from here we would follow anywhere Cave chose to lead us." -- Erik Thompson


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