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

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo by Erik Hess

Exceptional local and national musicians play our Twin Cities clubs every night. Plenty of shows are worth the price of admission, but then there are the nights that are transcendent affairs.

As the year reaches its summery midway point, Gimme Noise looks back at what we've seen and heard. Here are 20 of the best concerts of 2014 so far.

See Also:
The best Twin Cities concerts of 2013, part two
The best Twin Cities concerts of 2013 (so far)

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Anna Gulbrandsen

20. Betty Who at 7th Street Entry, January 18

"Betty Who is reminiscent in both sound and looks to Robyn and Pink, and just like those two, she seems bound to play bigger rooms to an ever-growing audience. The sugary powerpop pulse of 'You're In Love' and 'Alone Again' emphatically got the show started, and soon enough the crowd was bouncing in time to the towering beats, and balloons materialized out of nowhere and were batted about playfully on and off the Entry stage, adding to the celebratory nature of the night. Newham was effortlessly charming, and her buoyant personality infused her material with a convivial appeal. She even vamped while doing a choreographed dance with her band, humorously busting out the Dinosaur as they all moved in time with the music."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Steve Cohen

19. Heiruspecs at Amsterdam, April 26

"Heiruspecs took the stage to big cheers from the excited audience, which essentially filled the whole of Amsterdam. Opening with 'On the Ground,' Midway Felix and Muad'dib immediately proved their newly developed skills with harmonizing vocals by filling in for Chastity Brown, who tackles the song's hook on the record. Night Falls incorporates a number of big sung choruses and melodic verses into the mix, and it was impressive to see the vocalists handle that end in addition to rapping and beatboxing. 'I can't tell you how weird that is onstage,' Felix said after 'Been Around,' presumably talking about the melodies permeating through the song, both in the hook and the rapped verses. If any of the songs were outside the band's comfort zone, it was impossible to tell, as they confidently rolled through a long, solid set."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Mark N. Kartarik

18. Cloud Nothings at Turf Club, May 1

"That's right: the show was so good, I briefly forgot I was supposed to be covering it. Unprofessional? Maybe, but I chalk it up to the power of the band. In all my years of doing this, not once has that happened. Cloud Nothings are quite possibly the band that many have been looking for over the last two decades. 0 percent fat. Not even one note was present that doesn't have a specific purpose. There were no extra anythings -- it was all lean and trim and the hooks are so sharp they could slice a diamond in two without a struggle."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Erik Hess

17. Jeremy Messersmith at First Avenue, February 22

"Jeremy Messersmith's grandiose Heart Murmurs record release show at First Avenue is something he's been building towards for his whole creative life. The Minneapolis transplant's modest, acoustic-driven early work hinted at a scope and scale far larger, but his recent material demands a bigger stage. Messersmith got that and then some at his sold-out homecoming show on Saturday night. His 10-piece backing band -- including the Laurels String Quartet -- gave vibrant life to a career-spanning, 95-minute set showcasing his songwriting gifts."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo by Tahiel Jimenez

16. Deafheaven at Triple Rock Social Club, June 23

"After just a brief intermission, the moment had arrived: Deafheaven. Vocalist George Clarke, dressed in head to toe black like the rest of the band, stood eerily illuminated by dull stage lights behind his mic stand. He leaned menacingly over the audience, mirroring drummer Daniel Tracy's playing with abrupt arm movements and pausing often to tilt his chin upwards, eyes closed, bathed in light. There was no definitive break in between songs; short, beautiful interludes filled in the empty spaces."

 

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Mark N. Kartarik

15. Schoolboy Q at Mill City Nights, April 20

"After whetting the audience with some Chief Keef and A$AP Ferg, the long-awaited Q came forward, sporting a sort of toned-down Pharrell hat which is light years ahead of those god-awful bucket hats he's trying so hard to bring back. He worked his way through new and old songs, feeding off the crowd's energy but occasionally relying too much on their knowledge of the lyrics. Big songs like 'Hands On the Wheel' and 'Druggys and Hoes Again' saw the screaming fans taking over vocal duty for a good percentage of the song, though it was nice to hear Q take over Ab Soul's verse. "My album when it dropped went number one thanks to you guys," he said of his latest, Oxymoron. The new songs in the set took on a new life live, with Q's aggressive bark bleeding into polyrhythms and vivid imagery to great effect."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Mark N. Kartarik

14. Eagulls at 7th Street Entry, June 9

"George Mitchell delivers these dire warnings in a trance-like state, sunken eyes tightly shut or staring with unnerving focus. He's a magnetic performer, in an Ian Curtis vein, using his stark vulnerability as his greatest weapon. Lithe to the point where one starts to worry, and seemingly caught in a permanent sulk, Mitchell embodies Eagull's sickly post-punk sound. Swaying with the intensity of his delivery, the singer never engages with his audience individually, instead spitting caustic chants like the chorus of 'Nerve Endings' at the crowd as if they were the cause of his psychic burden."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Erik Hess

13. Girl Germs: Live Tribute to Women in Rock at First Avenue, May 30

"Watching Fury Things erupt into the first few lines of Hole's 'Teenage Whore' was enough to bring any grunge fan back to the early '90s, when Courtney Love unabashedly declared herself to the world as rock's first lady, smeared in red lipstick and armed with a guitar and a closet full of babydoll dresses. Lydia Hoglund of Bomba De Luz's rendition of Dusty Springfield was heart wrenchingly beautiful, and a massive accomplishment for a singer whose first encounter with Springfield's material was in preparation for this performance. Pink Mink got a small mosh pit going as they tore into Bikini Kill's extensive catalog of feminist-motivated material. The audience sang along like it was their last chance at karaoke, ever."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Anna Gulbrandsen

12. Rock the Garden, June 21 and June 22

"In the final slot, Spoon have always been nontraditional rock stars. They do stir in us the love of great songs, classic melodies, and the power of performance. But it happens without showy guitar solos, complicated drum parts, or eye-snaring outfits. Instead, they're more like an ambient noise-rock wolf lurking within the luxurious sheep's wool of their pop creations. Perpetually bedheaded Britt Daniel is prone to writing beautifully, but then sandpapering his glistening melodies with his voice. The rest of his band -- anchored by drummer Jim Eno -- couldn't help but let cacophony ooze out between the seemingly tight stitches of their arrangements."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Erik Hess

11. Queens of the Stone Age at Roy Wilkins, May 6

"QOTSA's momentum manipulation happened for the first time seven songs into the set. After slashing, banging, and wickedly asserting themselves for a spell with classics of yesterday ('No One Knows') and today ('My God is the Sun') Homme slid behind the keyboard for '...Like Clockwork.' He's got a cleaner and less lascivious vocal delivery than Axl Rose, but clearly shares an appreciation for the power of a big piano moment to increase friction with the lack thereof. This gesture was appreciated not just for adding clarity in the mix, but also for its emotional impact on the crowd. 'Not everything that goes around comes back around, you know?' Homme sang. The moshing eventually did, though."

 

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Steve Cohen

10. Cher at Target Center, June 11

"Despite the high level of well-earned boasting about her career and status as a top-tier diva, Cher didn't take herself too seriously, often poking fun at her age. 'I love standing atop that pillar. Always at risk for plunging to my death. It's about your happiness. I do it for you. At 68, I ask you, what's your granny doing tonight?' she asked to wild applause. As a full-on show, Cher spared no expense changing characters and personas. Like musical theater, each song followed a theme and provided a glimpse into the different eras and characters Cher is known for."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Tony Nelson

9. 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!"

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Tony Nelson

8. Sharon Jones & 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."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Tony Nelson

7. 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.'"

Nas at Soundset
Nas at Soundset
Photo By Erik Hess

6. Soundset, 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."

 

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Steve Cohen

5. 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."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Will Westbrook

4. Neutral Milk Hotel at First Avenue, February 10

"'All secrets sleep in winter clothes,' 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.'"

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Anna Gulbrandsen

3. 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."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo by Erik Hess

2. 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."

Top 20 best Twin Cities concerts of 2014 (so far)
Photo By Steve Cohen

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."

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