“It’s freaking cold here!” Madison Cunningham said in between songs Friday night. “I know we’re wimps since we’re from California, but man, It’s got to affect you guys too.” To many of us, It had. While we’ve definitely had worse winters, It doesn’t feel any less cold. I’ve got two space heaters going in my apartment, alongside the heater the apartment came with. Many of us are in a desperate attempt to find warmth after this last string of below zero days here. The Palace, as always, was a good place to find it.
The bill tonight was Madison Cunningham, opening for Iron and Wine and Calexico. All three groups shared a grammy nomination for their respective works this past year for best Americana album. Madison, with her latest album Who Are You Now released back in August, and Iron and Wine + Calexico with Years to Burn released this past June. Nobody tonight won that grammy, however that didn’t make the music any less good to hear.
Madison Cunningham has been busy lately. It’s only been five months since the twin cities saw her last, opening for Andrew Bird and playing guitar in his band during his last tour. Since then, she’s put out a new single, played a handful of solo shows, and of course, nabbed that grammy nom not long after her twin cities stop. Her music is a new, refreshing sound. Her guitar is tuned deep, but sounds clean. Her voice shines and sparkles above her guitar on songs like Something To Believe In. Both her guitar playing and singing grooves on All At Once and Pin It Down. Her slower songs are also meaningful and complex, forcing you to pay attention, which is something that, unfortunately, quite a few concertgoers didn’t seem to have. Many people in the first few rows got it. They were quiet, with their attention undivided and phones still in their pocket. But when the band quieted down on songs like Dry As Sand, their playing was almost drowned out by the noise from the back bar and balcony. While us Minnesotan’s make a kind audience, I guess we’re still prone to talking during slow songs at shows. In this instance, it was quite a shame to hear people talk over a grammy nominated, 22 year old singer songwriter, with some of the most inventive guitar playing ive heard. If you’re a fan of artists like Margaet Glaspy, Joni Mitchell, Laura Marling and Blake Mills, give Madison Cunningham a spin. And for god’s sake, shut up when you do!
Calexico and Iron and Wine took to the stage not long after, first giving a round of applause to Madison for opening. “We’ve got a lot to play for you tonight” Said Sam Beam strapping on his guitar “So let’s get to it” before hopping into Father Mountain off of their latest collaborative album Years to Burn. Both groups have been collaborating on and off for the past fifteen years, going back to their In the Reins EP, The song of the same name coming in the second song of the set. Jacob Valenzuela added in some very tasteful trumpet to the song, as he did on the original record.
The setlist bounced between each-others solo songs and their collaborative efforts together over the years, as well as a couple covers like Bring on the Dancing Horses, an Echo and the Bunnymen cover and a slowed down version of On the Road by Willie Nelson, which the group performed at a tribute concert the few weeks back. Their songs were good, as well as their stage banter, which happened pretty much between every song. You can really tell that these guys really like each other, and love to joke around. When Sam wasn’t talking to Joey Burns onstage, he was talking to the crowd, Telling us how much fun it is to be on stage and play these songs, and complimenting the crowd. “You guys are a really well behaved crowd” He said, which made me wonder somewhat how often people get into fights at Calexico or Iron and Wine shows. They even took time to complement the Palace as well, saying how “Nice everything sounds in here.” Even though tonight’s show was the second to last show of their winter tour (They wrapped up this run in Madison Wisconsin this past Saturday) It’s pretty obvious that they still wanted to (and could absolutely go onto) play another run of shows after this before they got tired of eachother.
Toward the end of their set, they invited Madison Cunningham back onstage to sing backup on Fortune Teller from Calexico’s 2012 album Algiers. She also joined them for What Heaven’s Left, Off of Years to Burn, the last song of the night before their encore number Dead Man’s Will, But not before taking a moment to thank their crew, and bus driver too, for getting them here safely. A welcome word of appreciation I wish many other acts would take time to do.
While warmth can be found in things that emit heat, it can also be found in others. Calexico and Iron and wine spread the warmth they’ve created as collaborators and musicians to the twin cities crowd who needed it. Their blend of folk and tex-mex sounded welcoming, especially tonight in the frozen north.