Lake Street Dive Pays Tribute to Prince, Concert Review

Lake Street Dive covers Prince’s ‘When You Were Mine’ at Palace Theater, photo BNW

If you want to make a Twin Cities concert crowd happy– cover Prince! Lake Street Dive checked the Prince box off right in the middle of their set during their first of a two night stand at St. Paul’s Palace Theater.

Together for fifteen years now, LSD has been gaining momentum for the past couple of years playing mid-sized theaters, lots of festivals (including Bonnaroo & Glastonbury), and nabbing the occasional late-night television guest spot; all while building an incredibly loyal fan base. Often labeled retro-soul, it seems safer to call them musical polyglots. They make soup of Americana, Folk, Jazz, Pop, Soul, and Rock, resisting the genre box. Nailing a good Prince song doesn’t hurt either.

The Palace Theater can sound amazingly great and last night it was spot on. Live instrumentation without computers definitely aids sound quality at the Palace. Lead singer Rachael Price came out dancing and didn’t really stop all night. You could hear every word she sang. Concert bliss. I’d pay to hear this woman sing the phone book. Her sultry, blue-eyed soul voice fills the room. She has an enthusiastic yet laid back presence with just a touch of glam to make it interesting. There’s a kind of Rita Hayworth vibe about Price, reminiscent of Hayworth’s film noir days. But Price’s girl next door presence, warmth, and wit are far from femme fatale. But she does have the “Gilda” hair flip going on.

She won over the crowd immediately.

She asked as she introduced “Darryl” if anyone in the crowd shared the name. When one guy responded, she joked, “I’m sure that’s tough for you?” Maybe he’s unfamiliar with the lyrics.

Rachael Price of Lake Street Dive, photo BNW

LSD put their own fabulous twist on Prince’s, “When You Were Mine,” slowing down the tempo and starting it off with Mike ‘McDuck’ Olson’s bright trumpet. (Mike is a home-town guy from Minneapolis. He’s the one that got the band together and suggested that they name themselves after a street in Minneapolis with a lot of dive bars.) Price sounded particularly amazing and her enthusiastic and charming swagger was perfect for this song choice. The rhythmic texture that vocalist and standup bassist Bridget Kearney brought to the song was definitely the clincher.

Musically, this group is tight. While not mind blowing, their arrangements are interesting. Songs revolve around Price’s soulful, husky vocals, leading some to think that the band is little more than back-up. But don’t make that mistake. There is solid instrumentation at work here. These are classically trained, serious musicians who met up in 2004 while attending Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. Kearney writes most of their songs with McDuck and Olson filling out the rest. Price co-writes occasionally. Everyone has a job to do and they do them well.

Photo of Rachael Price, Mike Calabrese, and Bridget Kearney of Lake Street Dive, photo by Beth Nault-Warner
Photo, BNW

In the middle of their set, a couple of covers were delivered unplugged from center stage as band members surrounded lead singer, Rachael Price. The newest member, Akie Bermiss traded his keyboards for a peppermint green melodica. Drummist Mike Calabrese swapped out his kit to hand tap a tambourine.

Set list from Friday nights performance.

They also know and appreciate one of music’s best kept secrets- bass.

The stand-up bass is a wonky but magical instrument. It’s definitely underappreciated and often misunderstood. Bass helps creates a solid sound. It provides rhythms steady pulse, kind of like a heart beat. But it also supports harmony. ‘Harmony’ literally means together. It’s when different notes come together. What’s interesting is that the ear hears these notes relative to the lowest sounding pitch- the bass. So beyond, writing interesting, vulnerable, and immediate lyrics and providing some solid vocal work, Kearney functions as LSD’s special sauce; that interesting ingredient that people don’t know they crave.

photo Lake Street Dive's Rachel Price by Beth Nault-Warner
Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price at St. Paul’s Palace Theater on the Free Yourself Up Tour, photo BNW (Such a Rita Hayworth vibe.)

At the end of a great concert, the lights go up and people start leaving. But the loyal few push to the front looking for set-list handouts or a possible guitar pick left on the floor. Tonight, there was a young woman loudly complaining because LSD didn’t do “Rich Girl”. It’s understandable. Fans take it as a personal slight when bands don’t perform their favorites. She was actually quite upset. I finally turned around and as politely as I could muster said, “You know that’s a cover, right? It’s not their song.” To which she looked back at me blankly and said, “It’s not?” I’m glad I said something as she seemed to walk away feeling better about the omission.

The song that my husband and I missed is “Shame, Shame, Shame.” I enjoy a good dressing-down when not directed at me and this ode to our President is a deliciously fervent scolding. But I came away with a new favorite, “Hang On”, which I’ve enjoyed in the past but hearing it live was a whole new experience.

Critics like to say that Lake Street Dive doesn’t live up to their historical influences. This may be true. I haven’t done the research and listened to things side-by-side, but critics are… well- critical by nature, right? And in this case, I think they’re wrong. I find this band to be immediate, dynamic, thoughtful, and fresh. I don’t think they’re trying to sound like their influences so I don’t understand the criticism. It was money well spent. Can’t wait until next time.

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