A couple of years ago, I would have said I’d eat my shoe if I ever wrote a positive review of a performance by a rock band who record in a wind-powered, geothermally-heated studio and tour in a solar-powered van, whose frontman introduces his pregnant wife as “the love of my life” while she paints a canvas onstage, and whose fans give them a roar of approval for mentioning cold press coffee.
And yet here I am with good things to say about Cloud Cult. Sunny and sustainable as the band’s image is, the best among bandleader Craig Minowa’s theatrical songs have a quality of rushing desperation that harks to Bruce Springsteen and Del Shannon. Performed life, they become cathartic, studio sheen traded for a clanging (100% post-consumer) clamor that brings to mind the New Pornographers’ first albums.
The band performed their last hometown show of 2009 Sunday night at the Cabooze plaza, perhaps the best outdoor venue in the Twin Cities. “It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful night,” beamed Minowa near the beginning of the set, which included a generous mix of catalog songs and selections from their latest album, 2008’s aptly titled Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes). The set opened with an emotional punch—a sterling, pulsing cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” leading into the poignant “Love You All”—and closed with a jubilant performance of Feel Good’s “Everybody Here is a Cloud.”
First opener The Daredevil Christopher Wright, whose debut LP In Deference to a Broken Back was mixed by fellow Eau Claire scenester Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, were well-received; Halloween, Alaska received a more tepid response for a long set that failed to gain momentum.
Jay Gabler (email@example.com) is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.
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