MUSIC REVIEW | Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit rock sold-out Varsity Theater in Minneapolis

The first dozen or so times I saw Isbell perform with the 400 Unit (the band he typically tours with) — you could say he was a different man than today. Then, on stage between songs, he’d soothe his voice with a gulp or six of Jack Daniels from a bottle the size of my head. He’s now sober and it truly shows in not only his vocal talents, but also in his general demeanor during the show. He’s grown up and his crowd seems to have grown with him somehow, both in size and behavior.This is his third stop in the Twin Cities in the past year and I’ve made sure to attend the others as well. He’s absolutely my favorite singer/songwriter going currently. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Citizen Cope at Varsity Theater

In a pop music landscape filled with ego’s the size of Kanye West’s and costume changes the likes of Lady Gaga’s, Citizen Cope’s stage presence, on display Saturday and Sunday night at Minneapolis’ Varsity Theatre, was a refreshing mix of humility, graciousness and of course, talent. Saying “thank you” several times between more songs than not, the crowd responded with enthusiastic cheers and applause, as though returning the favor. Sunday night’s set saw Clarence Greenwater (aka Citizen Cope) and backing band evenly disperse songs from the singer/songwriter’s entire discography throughout the show, from “Back Together” (off 2006’s Every Waking Moment) to “Comin’ Back” and “Let The Drummer Kick” (on his 2002 debut Citizen Cope) to his newest single, the redemptive and reggae influenced, “Healing Hands” (on his album, released in hard copy just last week, The Rainwater LP).With the professional air of a seasoned touring veteran, song after song came out sounding nearly identical to their recorded versions, much to the delight of the crowd. Getting fans jumping (not an easy task for a Sunday evening show) with “Bullet and a Target”, “Brother Lee” and “Hurricane Waters” and swaying side to side with the upbeat “Pablo Picasso/ My Way Home”, the band hit their stride right out of the gates and after a solid 80 minutes said their first of two goodbyes.Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases.Filling the newly refurbished (and still somewhat under construction) Varsity Theatre two nights in a row to sold out capacity, must have felt good for the newly minted label owner, and he let it show briefly, with a few sly smiles that gave at least the group of women standing behind me much to scream, and subsequently chat, about.After a brief intermission and some awkward attempts at chants (“cope, cope, cope” isn’t the easiest to get into) the crowd erupted at the sight of Clarence Greenwood walking back on to the stage alone, with an acoustic guitar. Continue Reading