Mark Nicklawske, For the News Tribune
Horn-driven rock and roll in the hands of masters has the power to shake a hockey arena from goal line to goal line. Pour all that brass over a pile of hits and a great night of music is a sure thing. Chicago, a band formed on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1967, ran through its amazing collection of solid-gold radio songs in a two-set, two-hour-plus performance for about 3,000 people at Amsoil Arena in Duluth Wednesday night. The 10-piece band, which still features three original members, offered a standard, no-nonsense show focused all on the music.
Artist tools can be very simple: A painter uses a brush, an illustrator uses a pen and a potter uses a wheel. Todd White is a different kind of artist. He uses a turn-of-the-century, 1,200-pound printing press.
Dierks Bentley is very bouncy for a country singer. While other Nashville acts might stand at the mic — cowboy hat pulled down — and sing about whiskey or pickups, Bentley bounded onto the Amsoil Arena stage Friday night like an aerobics instructor in a jean jacket. He even did a brief jumping jack during the amp-up opener "Burning Man." A filled-to-the-rafters crowd loved it.
Stand-up comedian Maria Bamford has a thousand twisted voices in her head, a cushion of air under her feet and a hit song about escalating family confrontations in her heart. Bamford, a Duluth native who lives and works in Los Angeles, used her amazing voice work and a surprisingly physical stage presence to tell wonderfully vivid life stories in rapid-fire succession during a sold-out performance at the NorShor Theatre on Sunday night. The hilarious 60-minute set was the first of a two-night downtown engagement.
If Duluth-based soul rockers Big Wave Dave and the Ripples were a drink, the group would be ice-cold beers dished out in long-neck bottles by a bartender in jeans. If the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra were a drink it would be a stirred-not-shaken vodka martini delivered in a long-stemmed glass by wait staff in a tuxedo. Like drinking a little too much Bent Hop and chasing it with top-shelf hard liquor, mixing gritty, horn-infused rhythm and blues with a sophisticated 52-piece orchestra can be a slightly dangerous. But it also can be really fun.
A play focused on two teenagers surprisingly partnered for a poetry class homework assignment may seem like a challenge to collegiate theater audiences used to loud musicals, traditional Shakespeare or large-cast comedies. But set the performance in a bedroom, give one character a life-threatening disease and the other a mysterious background, and now the work has a little romantic spark, life and death drama and all kinds of intrigue.
A good street busker can turn a simple song and beat-up acoustic guitar into something strong enough to stop a busy working world for a short listen. Singer/songwriter Martin Sexton has taken this hardscrabble art form to its highest level in a workmanlike 25-year music career. Sexton, who started performing on Boston, Mass., sidewalks, showcased his strong voice, memorable songs and a talent for connecting with a crowd during a mostly solo 18-song, 105-minute performance at the NorShor Theatre in Duluth Saturday night.
It's gotta be difficult for a band to make country music magic after performing thousands of shows together for almost 50 years. But Alabama made one of those heartwarming moments happen at Amsoil Arena in Duluth Wednesday night. Three songs into the show, lead singer Randy Owen stopped the music and signed a poster for an Ontario couple celebrating 40 years of marriage, The couple was escorted on stage and chatted with Owen.
Before actors took their marks and film hit the screen at the Duluth Playhouse Underground Halloween night, Zenith City Horror mastermind Alec Schroeder had half the audience on stage performing different sex positions. Outrageous? Of course! This is how audience "virgins" are introduced to their first live performance of the sexy, irreverent, B-movie send-up called "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
The period-obsessed drama series "Mad Men" used troubled married couples caught up in commercialized 1960s American culture to create award-winning, must-binge-watch television almost 10 years ago. The Lyric Opera of the North uses a similar swinging 60s approach to stage two heavy operas in one groovy show. That's right: The words "groovy" and "opera" were just used in the same sentence.