A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
Mare Lennon of St. Paul:
1 Xelias Aerial Art Studio, Minneapolis. On a sleepy Wednesday night, more than 125 people experienced pure magic from the aerial students in Northeast. Suspended in midair, the cast spun and dazzled on lyras, webs and silks to tunes such as "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave, "Tous les Mêmes" by Stromae and "Manic Monday" by the Bangles.
2 Zachary Scot Johnson, KJ's Hideaway. This listening room was full of heart and art for his self-titled LP release. Stories unfolded and melodies rang, as Johnson filled two hours, joined by the wonderful, eclectic Leslie Vincent.
3 Jason Isbell on "Austin City Limits." Isbell simply walks onto a stage and levels a room with truth. He is an archer and shows no mercy. Unless, of course, if mercy is what you truly need, he'll be the first at your side, to chop wood and carry water.
Jon Bream, Star Tribune critic:
1 Omara Portuondo, the Dakota. She seemed frail and needed help walking but the 93-year-old Cuban legend was marvelous. Her eyes spoke volumes as did her voice — impressive phrasing, emotion and force. Props to her bandleader José Portillo, a terrific pianist.
2 "Company," Orpheum Theatre. By flipping the gender, the producers of the revival of this 1970 Sondheim Tony winner have updated (save for the line about Ann Miller) and transformed it into a musical version of "The Bachelorette." Britney Coleman shines in the lead, Judy McLane brings the right attitude to "The Ladies Who Lunch" and "Getting Married Today" dazzles as clever, fast-paced ensemble action staged to perfection.
3 Chapel Hart says goodbye to mainstream Nashville. After attending the CMA Awards where everyone knew their name, the Black female country trio announced on Facebook live that they will no longer pursue a major-label contract or publishing deal and instead will remain an independent group, doing free concerts at schools and veterans' hospitals and asking for donations at public concerts. Like Maren Morris, Chapel Hart opted for independence from the close-minded Nashville establishment. After nine years of chasing their dream in Music City, lead singer Danica Hart said: "We're not here to get famous. We're here to serve the people."
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