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I saw Neil in Minneapolis last night, and it was a blast! My friends and I arrived at the Fine Line at 7pm, one hour before the doors opened. About twenty people had managed to squeeze into the Fine Line's foyer, which was heated, but me and several other unfortunate people had to wait outside in sub-zero weather for an hour. At one point, Sebastian Steinberg walked out the front door and said, "You poor bastards!" A few people were really complaining about having to wait outside and thought it was really mean that the Fine Line didn't open the doors early...but, I understand why they didn't. It's probably difficult enough preparing a club for a show without fifty extra people wandering around.

Anyways, after getting inside we waited for Rhett Miller's set. He came on at 9pm, and immediately jumped into "Our Love" from his solo album. I was very impressed with Rhett. He's one of the most energetic performers I've ever seen, and after a few songs we could all tell it was sincere--he wasn't just shaking his head and thrashing about to emulate some kind of rock 'n roll cool, he was genuinely that into his performance. He played several songs from his solo album as well as five or so Old 97's songs, including some of my favorites ("Salome," "Buick City Complex"). His energy was very contagious and he won the audience over with his warm personality. I thought his voice sounded fantastic. Some people here complained that after a while his songs started to all sound the same...I sort of agree, but those people should listen to those songs fleshed out by Rhett's excellent band (the Old 97's) before making any final judgement. Get "Satellite Rides," you'll love it.

Rhett was also very gracious and said how lucky he was to be opening for Neil, and noted what a great job he has where he can get paid to sit back and listen to Neil perform.

I should mention that the Fine Line is not a very big place, and it was packed to the gills. The show itself was fantastic but I was very uncomfortable, as were everyone else I'm sure. We were literally shoulder to shoulder and after a while my back started killing me from standing so rigidly upright.

Neil came on at 10 and opened with "Locked Out," then went into "King Tide" which was a nice surprise. Neil and Shon were noticably more comfortable with each other as guitarists, their interplay much more adventurous than last May. Neil's voice sounded EXCELLENT, he nailed all the high notes without strain.

A woman named Sherry (or Cheri?) filled in for Lisa on "Driving Me Mad." Apparently Lisa was home nursing her sick cat. I won't attempt to recount the entire set list, but several songs stick out. "Fall At Your Feet" sounded great and the crowd sang along eagerly. Neil played a solo piano version of "Hole In the River," and though I've never really liked that song it sounded good in that format. "I Got You" rocked good and hard.

Neil talked about all the snow in Minneapolis and how impressive it was, since he never saw it in NZ. Shon then sang a few verses of a Yoko Ono song about snow/winter, and Neil remarked it was certainly the best "snow song" he'd ever heard. Later, in the middle of "Pineapple Head" the band impressively leapt from the song's 3/4 time signature to an improvised blues song about snow (lyrics courtesy of Neil Smiler ). In general Neil kept the band on its toes all night, sometimes inserting improvised progressions in songs and basically just trying different things. It didn't all work perfectly but it was fun to see a rock solid band experimenting.

Neil played some new songs. "Love Is All That Remains" was lovely, though a few drunks were being obnoxious while the audience was entranced. There was another "brand new" song with no given title. It was more of a rocker, with a high-soaring chorus. Also, near the end of the night Neil played the so-called "Humming Song" and taught us a humming melody. It's a gorgeous song, with lots of exotic chords that sometimes sounded more classical in nature, like Debussy or Satie, and there was interesting use of meter that demonstrated how Neil's songcraft continues to evolve and incorporate more complex elements. Again, some drunks at the bar started screaming like idiots during that song, ruining a beautiful moment.

At one point Neil asked Rhett to join him on "Anytime," and thanked him for his "beautiful opening set." Hopefully this will satiate the people who complained about Neil not thanking Rhett in some shows. Other songs played include "Sinner," "Loose Tongue," "Private Universe," "Hello Sandy Allen" (what Neil could remember of it Smiler ) and "Last to Know" among others I can't remember right now.

A few people near the front of the stage were chatting during the show. Neil said, "You didn't come here for a good chat, did you? You can do that at home." Apparently they persisted, and later as Neil waited for his guitar to be tuned he turned to the conversationalists and said, "I'd really like to join in on this conversation. What are you talking about? Politics? Sports? Sex?" He said it in a joking way, but it was enough to quiet them down.

Neil also displayed some quick wit later on. As he was about to play the "Humming Song" during his second encore, a few women shouted "Don't Dream It's Over!" He stopped adn said, "I promise to play it next if you'll hum really loudly!" After the song he asked, "Did you hum?" They replied, "Yes!" Neil said to one of them, "I'm not surprised, you look like a hummer!" Big Grin

Overall the show was great fun, and Neil played for a little over two hours. It was a powerful reminder of what a strong, vital, talented artist Neil still is after 25 years, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Can't wait for the Finn Brothers part 2 and the subsequent tour promised by Neil. Smiler
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Great review Tommy J! I'm already depressed about the concert being over, so thanks for letting me live vicariously! BTW, Neil's wife Sharon has been doing some backing vocals on the tour, that's probably who you are talking about.

It sucks when drunks and talkers are rude, but Neil usually handles it with aplomb and his quick wit. I just can't imagine why you'd want to miss one second of a show like that by talking or being drunk, but that's just me.
Yes, I would agree that Shon seems more comfy. Neil also acknowledged Rhett in Chicago. I think that, from the comments around me, the crowd was ever so much more into Rhett as well, than Ed. I was with you in spirit, I kept looking at the clock thinking, Rhett must be on now, then Neil is on by now.

Thanks for the review, keep 'em coming!
Hi all, I also attended the sold out very full "crowded" house at the Fine Line in Minneapolis. We arrived at 7:45pm and the line outside was wrapped around the block, AND it was at least a 10 below zero windchill brrrrrrrrrrr! We were standing shivering in front of the upscale vegetarian restaurant, Cafe Brenda. I peered in the window and saw that infamous profile and spiky hair! Neil and family and friends were all sitting in there eating dinner. Later, some friends I knew came out of the restaurant and said they saw him, fans left him alone, but that Dan Wilson, of Semisonic, came up and chatted with him.
Finally, the doors opened and the crowd rushed to take their place close to the stage. (I also noticed a rush on the bar for hot Bailey's and coffee to warm the toes!)
I was also impressed with Rhett Miller, he gave an energy-infused performance, engaged the audience, seemed very sincere, loved his jangly tunes and clever lyrics (the head flopping did start reminding me from Animal from the Muppet Show though)
At last Neil came on, TommyJ did a fantastically accurate job giving the play by play of the show. I don't think I could have described it better, so I won't even attempt to.
I DO have to chime and rant on the drunks who insisted on talking loudly and screaming throughout. We are supposed to be known as "Minnesota Nice" and some in the crowd were just Minnesota RUDE! Especially during the ethereal "Private Universe" It was sacralige! I was trying my hardest to be entranced and caught up in Neil's musical spell, but the rudnicks to my right were annoying me so much! Honestly, why spend money to go to a show to blab the whole time? They clearly were not true Neil fans, just some yahoos waiting for the "Hey now Hey now" song.
Yes he did play DDIO and I have to say after all these years still remains fresh and poignant, "In the papers today, talk of war on the way...."
He and the band were tight,put on a wonderful show, and he was in great voice.
I think the cramped sardine packed bar and the loud-talkers were just such a contrast from what I experienced last time I saw him, the atmosphere this time made it a bit of a let down for me.
I have such warm memories of the night he played an outdoor concert at the downtown Basilica here last July. It was a gorgeous summer evening in Minneapolis, almost twilight standing on a grassy hillside with his music wafting through the breeze. 75 degrees out, no bugs, flanked by my two best friends, sipping a beer, hearing our favorite songs. It was sheer bliss and perfection!
Could that have been Sharon Finn singing backups on "Driving Me Mad"? I'm pretty sure it wasn't actually, because I've seen pictures of Sharon and it didn't look like Neil had to sort of coach her along saying, "Yes, it's okay, move the mic however you need it," as if this person hadn't sung on stage before. I got the impression it was someone Neil had found during sound check or something.

anyone who was there who could confirm or deny this?
Originally posted by Tommy J:
About twenty people had managed to squeeze into the Fine Line's foyer, which was heated, but me and several other unfortunate people had to wait outside in sub-zero weather for an hour.
My friend Amy and I were actually two of the lucky people that were squeezed into the foyer. I couldn't believe they actually let us! I wore all of my layers of clothes for nothing...I felt bad about all the people that couldn't fit in there though.
We actually were already down town and decided to walk by at about 6:30 to see if anyone was waiting. That's when we saw a bunch of people standing in there and Neil was actually doing his sound check! So, we got to see part of it through the glass doors, that was pretty cool.
When we finally got in we ended up in the second row and so had a fantastic time. Luckily those talkers were on the other side of the stage so they didn't bother me.
Rhett Miller was fantastic, and my friend Amy is just madly in love with him so when he said he would be out for people to meet and greet him after his performance, I gave her my camera. She got her picture taken with him.
I think I only got about one picture of Neil. No one seemed to be taking pictures so I didn't want to be the only one "blinding" him with my flash.
Tommy J's review is great, I can't add too much too it. Yeah, that was not Sharon on that song. And, we couldn't even hear her so I'm not sure if she was any good or not..
I have to say I understand now when people talk about this moment during his concert when you feel like you are having an out of body experience. I felt that during "Human Kindness" The band was so "on" and and they were in this zone....It was just so sublime...then they launched into "She Will Have Her Way"; it was the most perfect moment, I wish I could bottle it!
Anyways, I'm sad it's over. It was a perfect night!
Can't wait until he comes back! Smiler
Gosh, I'm like a week late, but I rarely check the BB. I just wanted to add that it wasn't Sharon Finn on bground vocals. I was standing by the sole table on the main floor. It was a group of friends of the bar's owner, and the woman who sang was one of them. (It was either right before Rhett or Neil got on stage that the owner hopped up on stage and asked her if she wanted to sing later on.)

I got to the Fine Line at about 7:30, and was about the 15th person out the door (standing in the cold, and complaining--not as much as the people behind me though).

Neil was great, and the new songs were great. I actually really loved the Minnesota Snow song, even though it was improvised, it was great, did anyone get the lyrics? I also loved Shon's Yoko Ono cover, he's got a beautiful voice. Neil seems to be getting more and more comfortable performing here in Minnesota. I saw him at the Guthrie Theater back on the TWT tour, and at the Basilica last summer, and each time he just gets better and better. Of course, if he had just eaten at Cafe Brenda that would make anyone pretty comfortable (yum).

I have to add that for all the rude people, there were a few Minnesota nice things going on in my section. No one complained when a woman in a wheelchair was given a near-front row spot on the right side of the stage. And after the first couple Neil songs, this large group of people sort of allowed a short (4'11" or so) woman a decent view by leaving a spot between their shoulders.

Originally posted by Sue Diego:
[qb] Aaaaaah, Neil pix! In Finneapolis, no less! Excellent... Wink ...thanx, Jenn!

( Just wonderin'...for the first pic...were you standing right behind Bernie Mac?! Razzer ) [/qb]
I know! I have no idea what that is! I didn't take the picture though. I made my friend Jenni take the picture - I didn't want to be the one to flash bright flash-bulbs in his eyes, so I made my friend do it...I'm evil I know! Wink

p.s. On looking at it again, I'm thinking it's a hat...

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