Semisonic brings signature song, more to First Ave

The Minneapolis rock band played deep cuts, brand-new material and, yes, “Closing Time.”


Image by Ethan Lambert

The group returned to Minneapolis after nearly five years.

by Ethan Lambert

Semisonic, the Minneapolis rock band behind the hit ‘90s song “Closing Time,” returned to the First Avenue Mainroom on Jan. 27-28 for the first time in about five years..

Their Minneapolis comeback comes more than a year after the band canceled two First Avenue gigs in 2021 due to the spread of COVID-19. The shows also marked their first time playing live since releasing new material, 2020’s EP “You’re Not Alone.”

The group began their hometown visit earlier in the week with a surprise show at the Icehouse on Jan. 25. However, the week’s main attractions were Semisonic’s two headlining performances at First Avenue for The Current’s 18th Anniversary Weekend celebration.

The fact that “You’re Not Alone” included their first new music in 19 years only accentuated the resurgent spirit.

“When was the last time we were in this room John, 2017?” frontman Dan Wilson asked bassist John Munson onstage between songs, early into their Friday night performance.

“I think that’s right,” Munson replied.

The two laughed about how they’ve aged since then before gesturing to the crowd and joking that their audience wasn’t getting any younger either.

The audience responded warmly to the onstage banter, demonstrating a mutual understanding that even though a lot has changed over the years, Semisonic can still get their hometown crowd going.

The band, best known for their 1998 megahit “Closing Time,” played songs from their original studio albums, their 2020 comeback EP and even some unreleased material.

While a casual observer outside of the Twin Cities may quickly label Semisonic as a “one-hit-wonder,” the responsive Minneapolis audience on Friday night suggested otherwise. After opening with a few cuts from their debut album, “Great Divide,” the band went on to perform a career-spanning set to an audience that was enthusiastic for it all — even the new songs.

“Basement Tapes,” one of the standout tracks from “You’re Not Alone,” had fans in the crowd singing along to every word – a testament to the band’s longevity and appeal as a legacy act.

Outside of his work with Semisonic, Wilson has led a successful career as a songwriter for other artists. Wilson earned co-writing credits for his work on some of the 2010s’ biggest hits, including Adele’s “Someone Like You” and Taylor Swift’s “Treacherous.”

Still, after years as a songwriter, 61-year-old Wilson’s voice was top-notch for the entirety of Friday night’s performance. Bassist Munson effortlessly backed Wilson’s lead vocals with the vocal harmonies that made the band’s ‘90s material feel melodic on their biggest songs like “F.N.T.” and, of course, “Closing Time.”

The other half of the group’s rhythm section, drummer Jacob Slichter, sounded lively as ever, but he moved to the keyboards for the final song of the encore – “El Matador.”

According to Wilson, as the band’s main songwriter, fans mistake “El Matador” as being written by him, though it was actually written by Slichter.

“I get these notes about El Matador. ‘El Matador is such a beautiful song Dan, you’re just the greatest songwriter,’ and I’m always torn because I didn’t write those songs. Jake wrote those songs,” Wilson said onstage.

Throughout the night, the members of Semisonic expressed their great appreciation to the sold-out crowd. At the end of their set, the satisfactory applause and cheers from the audience showed the feeling was mutual.