#95 Rolling Stones – Steel Wheels (1989)

rolling_stones_-_steel_wheels_a

The Stones. While “Steel Wheels” may not be thought of in the hallowed light of classic Stones releases (and listen I’m not saying it’s on par with Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers,Exile, Some Girls,etc.) nonetheless it is a significant album on a number of levels.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards spent much of the 1980’s bickering and pissed off at each other. For much of this time the future of the Rolling Stones staying together was very much in jeopardy. One sticking point between them was Mick’s refusal to tour with band while Keith wanted to go out on the road. There was also considerable tension between the two about the musical direction the band was taking. Mick wanted to experiment with the sounds of the day while Keith was firmly rooted in his blues based rock. Richards had cleaned up a little from his decadent behavior of the 1970’s and with his new found clarity wanted to insert some creative control over the band that Mick had handled on his own for many years. Then Mick ignored the band in an attempt to launch his solo career which really rubbed Richards the wrong way (to the point where he went out and recorded and toured with his own band the X-Pensive WinosTalk Is Cheap was received better by critics than Mick’s solo effort with some reviewers calling it the best Stones album in years). Then there was the elephant in the room…..the last 2 Stones records Undercover and Dirty Work both fell far below the bands high standards and were as close to a flop as a Stones record can get. Not known at the time was that this would be Bill Wyman’s last full record with band.

The album also holds personal significance for me. Growing up in the 1980’s I became a huge Stones fan. When the band toured in’81 to support Tattoo You I was 13 years old. I was a fan already at that point having both Tattoo You and Emotional Rescue in my newly growing collection of music. I was hitting the age where I wanted to go to concerts and this was one that I REALLY wanted to attend. My parents said no. As the 80’s moved on and I moved through my teen years, I was going to tons of concerts. All the while becoming an even bigger Stones fan….but alas there were no Stones tours for me to attend. Until Steel Wheels. I remember how excited I was when it was announced that would be touring for the first time in 8 years. Initially there was no Minneapolis date announced. WTF…I was nearly devastated. I remember telling my girlfriend Julie that this would probably be the last time that they were going to tour (Ok so I may have been a little naive at 21 years old) and that if we would have to go to Chicago to see them that’s what we were going to do. Finally a Minneapolis date was announced….and at the Metrodome no less. I was beyond elated. Now this was 1989 and Al Gore had not yet invented the internet, so getting tickets to a show was quite different back in the day. There were 2 basic ways to get your stubs for a show. The first was the old fashion ticket office (either at Dayton’s or the venue where the show was taking place….I spent a few nights “camping out” to get tickets for a concert) and the other was by using your credit card over the phone. Then it was announced that they were only going to be using credit card via the telephone sales, there would be no camping out for Stones tickets. Now this put me in a little bit of a pickle. In 1989 there were no Debit cards…and they didn’t give 21 year old dirty white boys like me credit cards. Then, like always for me…..Grandma Vi came to the rescue. Grandma Vi would let me use her credit card to buy Stones tickets….yeah she was a pretty cool Grandma. Problem solved. Now of course there could be nothing stopping me now from seeing my beloved Rolling Stones…I know it’s only rock and roll, but I like it. So as the sun rose on a Ham Lake trailer park on that Saturday morning I was perched with Kevin & Erin’s phone in one hand and my Grandma’s credit card in the other just waiting for 8 AM ticket sales to start. Here it comes…8 bells…start me up. And nothing. The phone lines in the Twin Cities were so jammed with people calling for tickets it was taking nearly a minute just to get a dial tone. Call…busy..hang up and wait for dial tone…rinse and repeat. This went on for a good 15-20 minutes when…BAM…IT RANG…I got through and the girl started taking my information. I am going to see the Glimmer Twins at the Dome! Then, before I could give the lady my credit card information…..I got disconnected. FUCK ! Are you shitting me? I can’t get no satisfaction, no no no. For the next hour I kept calling back and getting a busy signal. On the radio KQ92 kept telling me that tickets would be sold out soon, I was shattered, sha doo bee. I was nearly in tears when, by a pure “according to Hoyle” miracle I got a ring and got my tickets. November 29th 1989 at the Metrodome with my best friend Kent Larson on one side and girlfriend Julie on the other. Now for the anticlimactic ending…the Stones added another show for November 30th because the first one sold out so quickly…but that kind of sucks the sense of urgency out of my story.

Now back to the lecture at hand.

This is not the gritty blues rock of the ’70’s Stones. It is a much more polished production effort. Both Jagger and Richards were 46 years old and were probably not capable writing a new Tumbling Dice or Sweet Virginia. But Steel Wheels was a triumphant return for the Stones doing what they do best…delivering straight ahead Rock and Roll. The first guitar chords blaring out on track 1 were a testimonial that there weren’t going to be any Undercover Of The Night or Harlem Shuffle‘s on this disc. “Sad,Sad,Sad” busts out and reminds you of a raggedy old Stones rocker circa “Rocks Off” although once again a little more studio polished. It is a great way to kick off the record. The real gem of the disc, which was also the lead single released, was “Mixed Emotions”. This song was a semi autobiographical announcement from Mick and Kieth that, despite their bickering, the boys were back together and kicking ass. Mick’s voice sounds as wiry as his body as he growls out the vocals on “Hearts For Sale”. Some of my favorite Stones songs are the “Keith Songs”…and this record provides 3 of them. “Almost Hear You Sigh” was a song that Keith had left over from his solo album. Mick reworked the words and provided the vocals…but technically this is still a Kieth song. It’s a great ballad that was also released as a single. Another ballad “Slipping Away”, this time sung by Richards, closes out the record. My favorite Richards offering though is his ode to infidelity “Can’t Be Seen” in which he laments all the reasons that he can’t be seen with the married woman that he is having an affair with (although he waits until the end of the song to let the cat out of the bag). While it is not Little T&A, Happy or Before They Make Me Run….it’s a solid Richards tune.

In many ways Steel Wheels was both a triumphant comeback record and a fitting swan song to making legitimate rock and roll all wrapped up in one. And in the end….still the greatest rock and roll band…ever

other Rolling Stones on this blog:

#183 Mick Jagger – Wandering Spirit (1993)

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#96 Marc Cohn – The Rainy Season (1993)

marc cohn the rainy season

This is the 3rd (and not final) appearance on this blog for Mr. Marc Cohn, one of my personal favorite artists.When Marc released his debut album “Marc Cohn” in 1991, he was 32 years old. It was a beautifully written, thoughtful, near perfect masterpiece. “Walking In Memphis” was a huge hit and oh yeah he also garnered himself the Grammy for Best New Artist, there’s not much pressure that goes along with that. You see when you release your 1st album at 32 years old it means that you put in years of work leading up to it. Then you have to go back and recreate it all in an amazingly short period of time. This can be one of the leading causes of the dreaded Sophomore Slump that haunts the release of the follow up record. At age 33 he was an “overnight” sensation. As is the record business’ way, he was rushed into the studio to get a follow-up on the streets as quickly as possible and was releasing “The Rainy Season” in the spring of 1993. Although it was not near as commercially successful as his eponymous debut, it was not a huge flop. With all that being said…lets be very honest here…that debut album would have been impossible to top (I have seen Marc joke at shows when playing songs from the debut “Here’s another one from my Greatest Hits record”). The success of the debut also afforded Marc the ability to have some great people contribute to the new effort, including notable guest appearances by David CrosbyGraham Nash, and Bonnie Raitt. Given all the above, “The Rainy Season”  is a very solid release.

The record kicks of “Walk Through The World”. It’s a wonderful introduction to the album. A great jangley piano riff that never ceases to make me smile. An upbeat song of longing to be with your love. I have an incredible version of this song on a Cities 97 Sampler with just Marc and the Piano that’ll just knock your socks off. The title track “The Rainy Season” is another stand out cut. Another Cohn tune where his soulful voice is captivating and fits the music like hand in glove (cause you look older today than I’ve ever seen ya). While these 2 tracks stand above all others on this record there are several strong cuts. I love the almost Dylan-ish “Don’t Talk To Her At Night” that is an acoustic guitar driven track. “She’s Becoming Gold” is another piece of mellow piano magic.. The eerily beautiful “Mama’s In The Moon”. Then there is a personal favorite of mine, “The Things We’ve Handed Down”. A song about a parents love for their child. I saw Marc do this song as his final encore one evening at the Fitzgerald Theater in St.Paul and it damn near brought me to tears in it’s simplistic beauty.

other Marc Cohn on this blog:

#103 Marc Cohn – Join The Parade (2007)

#133 Marc Cohn – Burning The Daze (1998)

 

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#97 Rainmakers – Tornado (1987)

rainmakers tornado

The Rainmakers popped up just a few spots back with their comeback 25th anniversary album 25 On. This post finds the Makers in a little different era….circa 1987. This was a magical time for me personally. In the spring of 1987 I was 18 years old and had just finished high school and was ready to kick the shit out of the world. So were the Rainmakers. My guess is things didn’t go exactly how either of us had it planned back then. The Rainmakers were on the cusp of stardom and trying to follow up their eponymous 1986 debut album, which though it didn’t sell well  was still widely critically acclaimed. Unfortunately instead of propelling the group to stardom, it failed to catch a wide audience.

To my ears Tornado does fall short of the first record, but not by leaps and bounds. To be fair the first record is so good it may have been impossible to top. Perhaps the decision to make “Snakedance” the single wasn’t the best. While the song is good, its far from the strongest song on the album. It is a dance-able, upbeat tune that still has Bob’s verbal gymnastics (I’m part man, part monkey, part mystery). By the way Bob, as I’m writing this it’s 18 degrees below zero here in Minneapolis and we DO wear fucking hats (I’d like to think that he may stumble upon this one day in his dotage). My personal favorite on this offering is the “Wages Of Sin”. This song could have been slipped easily onto the debut album and fit in seamlessly… both musically and lyrically. After waxing poetically about Jesus being lashed to the cross…he summarizes that the wages of sin are “all the lumber you can carry…all the nails you can bend”….brave and genius. While the song is a satirical dig at religion (If heaven is guilt, no sex and no show…then I’m not sure if I really wanna go”) , it is done with a lyrical wit that is the genius of Walkenhorst. This is the type of song that the Makers built themselves on and that made them Kansas City’s answer to the Replacements and Husker Du. More so than on the the first record Bob turns introspective with songs like “Small Circles” and “No Romance”. Both these tunes are two of my favorites on the record. While maintaining the sound and style of the band these songs delve lyrically into deeper subject matter than say…Government Cheese or Big Fat Blonde. And it works, it’s the type of stuff that makes Walkenhorst one of my favorite songwriters. Although the view of the writer seems dark and brooding ( I wished someone had warned me while I was still a young man…and saved me lots of time and money…there is No Romance) it is told more as  “matter of fact” than “oh woe is me”. There are also attempts to write hit songs…though to mixed results. Songs like “One More Summer” and “I Talk With My Hands” are certainly catchy enough but seem a little too forced. Like I said good tunes, just not great. One of the hidden gems on this offering is “The Other Side Of The World”. This is a beautifully written song that, I think, is Bob coming to grips with the groups popularity on foreign soils (I got a letter the today from Tokyo, a little Japanese girl that I’ll never know…she’s eating pizza and singing “Let My People Go”….on the other side of the world). A great way to wrap up the record.

Other Rainmakers on this blog:

#100 Rainmakers – 25 On (2011)

 

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#98 Train – My Private Nation (2003)

train my private nation

My Private Nation was the album where the metamorphosis of Train took place. But unfortunately it was in reverse…something like a butterfly turning into a caterpillar. Where you can actually listen to a good rock band change into a pop rock money chasing Matchbox 20 clone. For those of you that think that this band has been anything different than the band who does “Hey Soul Sister”, you need to go back and listen to the first 2 records from start to finish. As I have stated before in earlier posts, in my opinion Rob Hotchkiss was the heart and soul of this band and, I believe, served as their musical conscience.While recording  My Private Nation,  Rob quit the band, citing his disagreement with the musical direction of the band. The result of him leaving during recording is that it leaves the album sounding disjointed and schizophrenic…bouncing between a band that sounds different from track to track. Perhaps the tracking would have been better served by separating the songs written and recorded with Rob from the ones that were not. Then on the ensuing tour in support of this album, bassist Charlie Colin was dismissed, allegedly for drug use. Change was truly in the air.

The lead single and first track off of My Private Nation was “Calling All Angels”. It kicks off the album with the plea ….I need a sign to let me know you’re here…and with that one of Train’s classic song leads off it’s third record. This song is not only the strongest song on the album (both lyrically & musically) it is a pop rock classic…hands down. I challenge you to listen to this song and not be singing…I won’t give up, if you don’t give up…in your head the rest of the day. It gets you excited for the rest and you’re thinking this shit is going to be great….

Then “All American Girl” comes on. You sit there thinking….this is fucking Train? Little would you have known at the time that you were hearing what the band would turn into. But in retrospect that’s exactly what this song captures and it is the first you really hear of Pat’s rhyming for rhyming sake songwriting.. To be fair it is catchy hook driven pop song and it is one of the songs that Pat’s pop-centric rhyming lyrics work. But it is such a contrast to the Train sound you are used to hearing, especially when it is sandwiched between Angels and the beautiful ode to Pat Monahan’s mom “When I Look To The Sky”. Both “Save The Day”  (Hey Baby..I don’t want to be you’re Superman, I just want to be your man & I’ll be super baby) and “Get To Me” are strong songs that carry the middle of the disc over weak filler.  “Lincoln Avenue” is a hidden gem tucked on the backside of this record.

other Train on this blog:

#118 Train – One And A Half (1999)

#124 Pat Monahan – Last Of Seven (2007)

#132 Train – For Me It’s You (2006)

#134 Train – Save Me San Francisco (2009)

 

Train- Calling All Angels

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#99 Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

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I’m going to preface this blog posting with a disclaimer. This is by far the post that, up to this point, gives me the most anxiety in writing. I’m not a huge Nirvana fan and even less of a  Kurt Cobain fan. To many people this may be their favorite album of all time. I get it. But this is a blog that reflects my opinion. Since I started this blog almost 3 years ago my ideas on how I should have done it have altered. If I ever get finished with it (and judging by my prolific posting that’s a huge IF) I may just start it right over again. I feel, for me personally, that I rated this one too high on the list. Because of the legacy this album has I think I felt compelled to keep pushing it up the list. There is no denying this record has taken on a life of it’s own in the music world. It has been given credit for killing MTV, killing hair metal, creating Grunge (I’m still not sure that I know what the fuck Grunge is),changing radio formats,etc. Some of it’s true, some of it’s legend and some of it’s hyperbole. I mean let’s be clear here…Axl Rose killed Guns N Roses , not Nirvana. I think more than anything that there was a serendipitous timing for this record..that things aligned in a perfect way for Nevermind (this link will take you to the Wiki page for the album…it’s a much better, more informative read than you’ll get from me).  Of course none of that would have happened had it not been a good album, which it was. I just don’t consider it either great nor groundbreaking. Perhaps I’m just an idiot considering this CD has sold over 30,000,000 copies worldwide. What I will say is that Cobain, who is propped up on a pedestal by many for having so much integrity, strong-armed his band mates into giving him 75% of the songwriting royalties for the band (that were originally split equally) after this album became such a hit….and had the balls to make it retroactive back to Nevermind (sounds an awful lot like the same shit Axl pulled on the boys from Guns…just saying). I’m going to get off my soapbox although I feel like I could write so much more on this subject…and get back to the album.

Speaking of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”…I can recall the first time I heard this song. I was living with this girl named Darcia over off of Lake St. & Hiawatha in a tough little part of south Minneapolis in a converted four plex. I’ve always been one to listen to music when I take a shower (usually to the aggravation of those who have cohabited with me)…hey I like what I like. I was listening to an alternative station on the radio…I dont know how many of you remember the great 2 year run of the best alt station the Twin Cities ever had  Modern Rock KJ104 ( I find it a little ironic, in retrospect, that just about a year after this band supposedly changed radio that this station was forced to change formats…which really sucked, because there was no where else where you would hear shit like King Missile “Detachable Penis” or School Of Fish “3 Strange Days”)…but that’s what I was listening to.It’s funny that I even remember this, although I really don’t remember what my reaction to it was at the time. While I could write about the songs that I like on this CD (Come As You Are, Lithium, In Bloom, Polly,etc.) I’m not going to. Most of you reading this probably have this in your collection or have your own opinions on these songs as much as just about any other album on this blog.

While I may not subscribe as much as others to the church of Nirvana as others, there is no denying the power and legacy of Nevermind. If I needed further proof of that, its right here at home. Both of my teenagers, born after Kurt Cobain died, are huge Nirvana fans.

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#100 Rainmakers – 25 On (2011)

rainmakers25on

Ok so some of you have never heard of The Rainmakers. I get it. They are a band out of Kansas City and in the ’80’s they were the hottest local band in town. I loved this bands first 2 albums and was always befuddled why they didn’t reach a higher level of popularity. In 1986 they released their classic eponymous debut album.  Somewhere in the ’90’s after several releases that did not sell well, they ended their run…got back together and then broke up again in 1998. In 2011 they reunited (mostly) to release 25 On, celebrating 25 years since the release of their first album. What a wonderful, unexpected surprise this CD was. It finds Bob Walkenhorst  (lead singer,songwriter and main Rainmaker) using an older much more mature voice in his songwriting. That doesn’t mean that he is any less witty in his song-crafting, just don’t expect to hear an updated version of Big Fat Blonde or Government Cheese.

Bob still maintains his legend as a local musical hero with songs like “Kansas City Times” and the catchy “Missouri Girl” . But it is the more introspective songs that standout on this disc. The strongest song of the set is the sadly beautiful “Last Song Of The Evening” where Walkenhorst tells the story of a Missouri farm wife in the first person. There was quite a few nights I spent in my girlfriends old garage listening to music, drank and smoked where I would close out the night with this tune. My other favorite song on the disc is “Like Dogs” a mid tempo rocker. A song about a man who is  being warned about how his superficial life is going to lead him to loneliness.

25 on is a slid offering from start to finish and hopefully is not the last we hear from the greatest band to ever come out of Kansas City.

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2014……A musical year of Rick in review (sponsored by Coors Light beer & Markers Mark bourbon)

Todd Snider @ The Fitz

Todd Snider @ The Fitz

I guess I really need to blow off the cobwebs of my dusty old blog and start giving it a little more attention. Honestly I’m not sure why I have had a lack of motivation to contribute more posts here. But I’m going to try to put forth a little more gumption and get this mothertrucker back on track. The year 2013 was a diverse and fun concert year for me, both the venues and the artists. My concert year got off to a slow start, I didn’t attend my first show until April. In fairness to me…not a lot of acts like to come to Minnesota in the dead of winter. But the first show of the year was the always terrific, always eccentric Todd Snider at the historic Fitzgerald Theater in St.Paul. To make a good show even better, Jason Isbell (Drive By Truckers) was not only was the opening act but he also joined Todd on stage for the 2nd half of the show. I’m not sure but I think this was my 6th or 7th Todd Snider show and every one has been tremendous. In July we attended the LP Tour at Target Field for Kimmy’s birthday. Kim was there for the Gear Daddies & I was there for Soul Asylum (Mathew Sweet and Big Head Todd & the Monsters were also on the bill). It was a unique show where each act played an entire album start to finish. To hear Dave and Soul Asylum do “Grave Dancer’s Union” in it’s entirety was pretty sweet. The only downside to the event was that it was a chilly summer night in Minnesota that required a sweatshirt in July. Well that and the massive hangover the following day, but sometimes that just goes with the territory.

Me & Bob @ Target Field for the LP Tour

Me & Bob @ Target Field for the LP Tour

August brought around a show that I had been looking forward to for most of the year. It was not just the return of my friend Joe Firstman to the Cities…but a show celebrating

Entry Poster

Entry Poster

the 10th anniversary of the release of his classic (well to me at least) “The War of Women” album at the 7th Street Entry. The idea was that he would play the album from start to finish…and he almost, kinda did. Highlight of the show was when he played “Buy Me A Bourbon” at my request and we christened it with a shot of Makers Mark. This was my 20th time seeing Joe live and each show is unique and awesome. He’s the best artist you’ve never heard of. For this show my cousin Richard and his wife Amber joined me & Kimmy for a fun hazy night of frivolity. The only downside of the evening was the absence of the talented Toby Weaver….missed ya buddy.

Joe Firstman

Joe Firstman

The end of August brought the show of the year. I make no apologies for being a huge Jimmy Buffett fan. I know quite a few people that are snobs when it comes to music and look down there noses at acts like Jimmy. There are many reasons why Jimmy is an artist that I love. He has great drinking songs, sing a long songs and songs about escapism from the cold mundane to the tropics. I’m on board with all that shit. But mostly it’s fun.  I had talked for years about making the trek to Alpine Valley in southern Wisconsin to see the annual Buffett show there. I had always heard what an unbelievable time was to be had there.

KIm & I in the lot @ Alpine Valley

KIm & I in the lot @ Alpine Valley

But this year Kim bought the tickets and we actually did it. It was everything I ever heard it was….multiplied by 100. I had not seen Jimmy since 1995 (he almost never comes to Minnesota and hadn’t been there since 2003). We brought my parents, who both love Jimmy but had never seen him (that’s right…I went with my parents…and had a blast). The parking lot at Alpine Valley is entertainment enough.

Me doing a Flamingo Beer Bong

Me doing a Flamingo Beer Bong

It is impossible to truly appreciate the chaos of the tailgating that goes on there…Drunken Mayhem might be close…unless you’ve experienced it. Once inside, the show was a blast from the front row of the lawn seats. The night was made even better by having another favorite of mine, Jackson Browne as the opening act. I think that this show will become an annual event for us.

Me & my old man

Me & my old man

No doubt it is a bit of an expensive trip for a concert….but worth every penny.

Of course each Labor Day weekend is spent at our cabin in Northwest Wisconsin. Part of this weekend ritual is attending the Shell Lake Street Dance. While not technically a concert…there is a band there. I started attending this years ago with my cousin Jay and his wife Smashly, but they have not come up the last few years. This year though my cousin Chris came along with me & Kim to the street dance and we had a blast.

Chris & Kim @ the Shell Lake Street Dance

Chris & Kim @ the Shell Lake Street Dance

In June I heard a new band on Outlaw Country on XM and loved the song so much I ordered the CD without having heard anything else. It came in the mail and was on constantly for the next several months. The band was Houndmouth and in October (right around my birthday) they made a trip to Minneapolis and played at the 7th Street Entry. What an awesome young band. Their sound reminds me of the Band, Wilco and the Cordovas. Also they were able to deliver that sound live. When this show was over I looked at Kim and told her that we would never see this band play in such a small venue again…time will tell if I was being prophetic or not.

Me & Katie Toupan from Houndmouth

Me & Katie Toupan from Houndmouth

While we were at the Houndmouth show we saw that Soul Asylum was playing First Avenue the following night. I rarely pass up an opportunity to see this band play. They are absolutely scorching live. So we bought tickets and trekked back to downtown Minneapolis the next night. Fountains Of Wayne opened the show and almost put me to sleep, but they finished with “Stacy’s Mom” and that kept me awake until Dave Pirner and the boys took the main stage at First Ave. As the band launched into “April Fool” there was more energy in the first 30 seconds than the entire FOW set. I’m not sure how many times I have seen this band (dating back to the late ’80’s and early ’90’s…let’s just say a lot) and I’ve never been disappointed.

Soul Asylum @ First Ave.

Soul Asylum @ First Ave.

November brought around another special treat for me. My first time seeing Shawn Mullins live and at a venue that I’d never been before, the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. I’m a big fan of Shawn’s and I’m not quite sure why or how I’d never seen him before. While I was not much of a fan of the pretentiousness of the Dakota, or quite possibly the worst opening act I’ve ever seen. But Shawn did not let me down. A great acoustic set that included most everything that I would have wanted to hear. A great way to heat up a cold Minnesota November night.

Shawn Mullins @ the Dakota

Shawn Mullins @ the Dakota

Remember when I said that Jimmy Buffett almost never comes to Minnesota? Not long after we had returnned from seeing him at Alpine Valley they announced that he would be playing the Xcel Energy Center in December. Of course having the best girlfriend in the world meant that I got tickets to this for my birthday in October. So I wound up my 2013 concert season with my girlfriend Kim (who was with me for every show I attended this year) trying to bring a little St. Somewhere to a snowy December night in St.Paul.

Me & Kimmy @ the X

Me & Kimmy @ the X

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