Madison Cunningham is one of music’s best kept secrets. Years ago, I saw her twice at the Palace Theater in St. Paul opening for other acts, but to catch her in these smaller intimate venues like the Turf Club, and tonight’s show at the Fine Line Music Cafe, makes me feel like I’m in on a secret that maybe should be more widely known: Madison Cunningham is a generational talent.
Since her last show here in October, She has gone on to nab another GRAMMY nomination, perform at Madison Square Garden while opening for Harry Styles, a full European tour, and is on the cusp of releasing her next album just over a month from now, aptly named Revealer. Madison has been releasing a handful of singles from the album leading up to the release. In From Japan, Hospital and Any Day Now all made the setlist last night, as well as the twirly All Ive Ever Known, which will also be featured on Revealer. Madison and her band also played a handful of those songs at their recently released tiny desk concert. Youde think that kind of resume would mean larger rooms for her to play in, but that spoils the secret now, doesn’t it?
The Fine Line has a much larger stage than the Turf Club does, but that didn’t seem to keep the band further apart onstage. I spoke about the tight quarters on their stage during their last show here, but perhaps it’s the tight quarters that keeps the band as tight as they are as musicians. Drummer Kyle Crane keeps his drum kit off to the left side, facing Madison and the rest of the band from the side. Keyboardist, Guitarist and Vocalist Philip Krohnengold sits opposite of Crane and in between Madison Cunningham, while their touring bassist stood just a couple feet away from Madison and Kyle Crane. Your eyes didn’t have to dart too far away from the other members of the band during significant moments in the set. Kyle’s drumming on the theatrical L.A. (Looking Alive) From Madison’s 2019 release Who Are You Now was phenomenal, as well as Phillip’s keyboards on songs like All Ive Ever Known and Broken Harvest felt like sounds that were made just for those songs.
But Madison Cunningham shines with – or without – her band. She performed two songs solo while the band left the stage. “Sometimes I make them play in ⅞ time” she joked “So I gotta give them a little break.” She performed Inventing The Wheel and the tearful, Song for Rachel, About the loss of her grandmother during the pandemic, telling us it’s also a song about loss in general. Afterwards, it was hard to find a dry eye in the room. Madison’s songs aren’t particularly slow and solemn in most of her catalog, but Song For Rachel is both a beautiful dedication to her grandmother, and a shining example of Madison’s own songwriting.
Her more climatic songs also moved the crowd, even if they took time to get there. Madison’s progressions in her songs feature a lot of twists and turns that make the crescendos worth the wait. Her voice and her guitar will land on notes that aren’t quite the ones your ear would naturally expect them to be, but its what adds to making her music feel fun and new. Songs like Trouble Found Me, Song in My Head, and Hospital all reached climatic peaks toward the end of each song. All Ive Even Known reached a similar crescendo early on in the set, much louder than the tiny desk version (they are in an office, after all) and elicited a response from the girl standing behind me, “Oh my God this is great.”
We left with a fresh understanding of her music last night, a taste of a forthcoming album, and a plea to buy merch. “We’re completely out of gas” she laughed, telling us to sell out the table. Perhaps more importantly, we left with our secret in-tact. And when it gets out, (likely very soon) we’ll get to be some of the lucky ones to look back at these shows and say we were there for it.