Please Heed the Call

The Minnesota Daily

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the time when it is impossible to round a corner without running into another list – and we at The Minnesota Daily plan to spare you no pain. We are not going to don crowns and dictate the year’s best albums and artists because, as John Mayer might say, there is no such thing.

Instead, we are simply going to share our favorite musical moments from 2002 – the concerts we didn’t want to end. The CDs we couldn’t return to their cases (and for some, the TV show we couldn’t turn off).

We hope this inspires you to whip up a cup of hot cocoa and reflect on your own musical memories from the past year.

Happy reminiscing!

Gary Allan’s Sept. 18 opening for Kenny Chesney at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center in Duluth, Minn., Sept. 18

Forget Kenny Chesney and his bulging biceps. It was opening act Gary Allan who proved all hope is not lost for modern country music. Backed by a band that proved equally capable of traditional country and rock ‘n’ roll, Allan purred and snarled through the opening set, making the Duluth convention center feel more like some honky-tonk bar than the ice hockey arena it is. It was refreshing to see a country performer who cares more about his music than his image or his looks. “Smoke Rings in the Dark” was as tender and despondent as any Hank Williams tune, and new songs, such as the gritty single “Man to Man,” sounded heartfelt and authentic despite their predictable lyrics. That is because hiding beneath the 10-gallon hat was a man who recognizes that the true force of country music is earnest delivery and having a story to tell. With more opening acts like Allan, Chesney could ride his tractor off into the sunset and hardly be missed.

Bob Dylan on Aug. 23 at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo, N.D.

What is left to say about Bob Dylan that has not already been said? This August he provided my sister and me with the perfect end-of-the-summer concert experience. We spent the afternoon basking in the sun with Bobcats from every walk of life, and when the band stepped onstage in matching burgundy suits, we hoped they would sound as good as they looked. A playful “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” was the quintessential sing-along, one Dylan had performed only twice since 1969. A lightning storm and plump harvest moon provided the perfect backdrop for the lilting love song “Moonlight,” and even Dylan himself could not help but beam during the bluesy rock ‘n’ roll number “Summer Days.” As we reluctantly made our way back across the baseball field at evening’s end, the words rang in my ears. “Summer days, summer nights are gone/I know a place where there’s still somethin’ going on.”

Greg Brown on Sept. 25 at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis

few men could sound sexy and tough singing “rooty toot toot for the mo-ooon.” In a sold-out show at the Cedar Cultural Center this fall, Greg Brown managed this and much more. Looking exactly like you might expect for a man who hails from a farm in the Hacklebarney region of Iowa, the rough ‘n’ tumble singer/songwriter plowed through a vast array of songs from his 30-plus-year repertoire. Between tunes, Brown amused the reverent audience with off-the-wall banter about everything from his confusion getting dressed in the monring to the weather. The artist’s appreciation for life’s simplest pleasures shone though in his lyrics (“Oh, I love the smell of coffee/And I love the way my baby calls my name”), and when Brown strummed his guitar and growled, “It’s a messed up world but I love it anyway,” the nodding heads in the audience confirmed he is not the only one.

Paul Westerberg on June 30 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis

it was about damn time. His first local show in six years and you could tell Paul Westerberg needed us almost as much as we needed him. When he forgot the words to the Replacements’ beloved Minneapolis love song, “Skyway,” and altered the lyrics to the classic fan love-letter, “Alex Chilton,” singing, “I never travel far without a little G ‘n’ R” (a slam to the ‘Mats’ former guitarist Tommy Stinson, who is touring with Guns N’ Roses front man Axl Rose), it was wonderfully clear that Westerberg got a well-deserved jolt of self-assurance from the thrilled Guthrie audience. Sure, it was no ‘Mats reunion, but Westerberg’s presence was so exhilarating and touching, I left more than satisfied.

The Hawaii Show at The 22nd Annual Minnesota Music Awards, Sept. 18

this wreck of an awards show needed a smack of subversion. The Minnesota Music Awards was dragging with mediocre performances, hackneyed comic crap and queasy music-industry presenters. Held at the way-too-posh Touchstone Energy Ballroom at St. Paul’s Xcel Center, it was a shame of a night, and most of the winners did not even bother to show up. In came local lampooners The Hawaii Show. Parodying the hyped Hives song “Hate to Say I Told You So,” Mr. Hawaii Dude strutted like Mick Jagger-turned Pelle Almqvist, complete with a wad of socks shoved down his tight black pants. Poking fun at rock stars, critics and fans (as well as the Loring Pasta Bar), the act was like a breath of fresh air in smoky bar. Even the stuffed tuxes and prom dresses in the audience cracked a smile.

Feminist magazine Bust’s music writing

after escaping near-death (Bust went bust around Sept. 11, 2001, but bounced back), Bust has proved its worth with refreshing coverage of all things feminist, funny and frank. A recent issue featured a cover story on Beck, billed as “Our Kind of Sex Symbol,” with an interview conducted by infamous groupie Pamela Des Barres. The interview, informal and almost first date-like, had Des Barres asking questions like, “You seem to be pretty in touch with your female side, right?” and “I’m curious, how do you feel about groupies?” Bust’s music coverage ranges from the probable (Sleater-Kinney, Peaches) to the unpredictable (Queens of the Stone Age, Dolly Parton). A recent review reads, “This stuff gets to you and will most likely remind you of those sad times when you had to pick yourself up by the bra straps and just try and get by.” Bust’s style is utterly unpretentious, always inspiring and candidly passionate about music. The annual music issue is on newsstands now.

Blondie and Chubby Checker on July 6 at the Taste of Minnesota in St. Paul

deborah Harry not only sounded great belting out classics such as Richard Hell’s “Love Comes In Spurts” and Blondie’s own “Heart of Glass,” but she also looked damn good in her short, white Marilyn Monroe-esque getup. Blondie warmed the crowd well enough, but once Harry brought longtime friend Chubby Checker to the stage to help perform his hit “The Twist,” the show really started to cook. Harry and Checker wiggling their hips side by side was truly a beautiful moment in rock.

Pulp, “We Love Life”

few took notice when Pulp released “We Love Life” early this year, and those who did passed the effort off as merely one last cigarette in the ashtray. But the venerable British band, fronted by the lean and languid Jarvis Cocker, seems to have taken up pipe-smoking instead. After making British tabloid headlines for years, Cocker withdrew from the spotlight and there were rumors of a breakup. However, he and his cronies emerged once again to release the best album of their 24-year lifespan, a melodic soundscape that is purely organic in instrumentation and overflowing with life-affirming lyrics about trees, weeds and sunrises. Absent are Pulp’s trademark down-and-dirty dance tracks and embittered paeans of desperation. Pulp might be getting older, but they are just getting started.

Beck with the Flaming Lips on Oct. 17 at the Historic Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis

while Beck’s “Sea Change” tour will long be remembered for his ingenious pairing with the Flaming Lips, some Minneapolis concertgoers will hold a different memory. It seems the Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” inspired the balcony dwellers to launch a battle of their own. The crowd descended on a woman who would not pass the between-set toys, some confetti-filled balloons. In a bizarre case of mob mentality, she was dubbed the “balloon bitch” and became the target of hundreds of screaming fans. The altercation ended with a pop, resulting in great cheers and restoring peace to the Historic Orpheum Theatre. In the end, it was all about sharing.

Sam Jones’ Wilco documentary, “I am Trying to Break Your Heart”

i did not think it was possible to love Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” any more, but this documentary proved me wrong. It opens with a chilling acoustic version of “I am Trying to Break Your Heart,” which murmurs behind an unkempt, at-the-end-of-his-rope Jeff Tweedy. The film exposes Tweedy’s struggles with label fiascos and feuding band members, and the band’s recording sessions capture the brilliance of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” After the release of this moving film, Wilco remained in my CD player longer than any other album this year.

Snoop Dogg, “From the Chuuuch to da Palace”

the headlines flew like dizzle on a thizzle: “Snoop Produces Porn Video,” “Snoop Says ‘It’s Cool to Say No to Drugs.’ ” It all sounded like a grand hoax at first – the man known for “rollin’ down the street smokin’ indo” has gone clean? But after seeing the Doggfather read Snooped-up nursery rhymes to a bunch of kindergarteners on his MTV special, “Doggie Fizzle Televizzle,” I had to believe anything was possible. And just when you thought Snoop could not get any smoother, he released a new single produced by the omnipresent Neptunes, making it clear that Snoop is as hot as ever – even drug-free!

The Hives with Har Mar Superstar on June 4 at First Avenue in Minneapolis

before he was Kelly Osbourne’s date to the Video Music Awards, Har Mar Superstar was gyrating all over the Twin Cities, spouting the oft-quoted mantra, “Give it up for me! I’m the Ö best!” So when a slot opened on the equally cocky Hives’ First Avenue show, it made sense for Har Mar to fill it. He and the Swedish garage gang charmed the all-age crowd (and horrified parent chaperones) with their distinct brands of self-promotion. After revealing a black and white American flag emblazoned with lights spelling THE HIVES, Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist declared, “We think it looks better this way. It’s the first of many things we’ll improve in your country.” Thanks, Pelle.

“American Idol”

in a time of TRL and extreme artistic cynicism, there was only one thing that could bring the country together: “American Idol.” What “music event” has ever been so ripe for sincere adoration and yet just as open to fun, nonviolent ridicule? From the first out-of-tune warbling of “Lady Marmalade,” to the final question of “Who’s rooting for that curly-haired freakboy?” “American Idol” offered some kind of entertainment for everyone. It even made us forget about judge Paula Abdul’s nonexistent singing talent. Best of all, it taught us that America’s sweethearts taste even better when they are chewed up and spit out.

Dave Eggers on Oct. 24 with They Might Be Giants at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul

when author and “McSweeney’s” editor Dave Eggers planned a tour to publicize his second novel, “You Shall Know Our Velocity,” he wanted more than folding chairs set up at Borders. Instead he created “McSweeney’s vs. They Might Be Giants,” a series of readings that made a stop at the Fitzgerald Theater. While Eggers and friends read, the Brooklyn band (fresh from their 20th anniversary show) played live background music. Also featured were the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, a mom-and-pop act who buy slides at yard sales and write songs about the strangers pictured. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter’s drumming puts the White Stripes’ own pigtailed stick wielder to shame.

Jennifer Schneider, Keri Carlson, Brianna Riplinger, Lindesy Thomas, Jahna Peloquin contributed to this review.