Ive often spoken about how intimate a venue the Cedar Cultural Center is. Beyond a seated section in the right corner, you are waist-high to the stage, with no security fence, welcome to put your beer right on the stage. So it’s fitting that such an intimate venue is chosen to host an intimate artist.
Theo Katzmann’s songs are mostly that of heartbreak, and the desperate, depressing feelings that come from memories and questions left unanswered. And while those subjects are primarily done as slow piano ballads by other artists, Theo has found a way to take these subjects and rock out on them. Combining the styles of funk, soul, jazz, and good old rock and roll, A majority of Theo’s songs are anything but slow and sappy.
Of course, it takes a tight group of musicians to keep up with such a blend of music. Along for the tour this year is trusted bassist Joe Dart, who comes from Vulfpeck alongside Theo, Drummer Jordan Rose, and Dawes members Lee Pardini on keys and Trevor Menear holding down backup vocals and guitar. All of whom are expert musicians that really open up the songs from what’s heard on Theo’s albums. Trevor’s tasteful slide work on Good to Be Alone off Theo’s 2017 Album Heartbreak Hits was otherworldly, as was Lee’s piano work on “Best” off of Theo’s latest Modern Johnny Sings: Songs In the Age of Vibe.
Mixed in between these love songs were a couple of political songs from Modern Johnny Sings, Theo opened his set with album opener You Could Be President and included two other protest songs in his set, (I Don’t Want To Be A) Billionaire and Like a Woman Scorned. “I didn’t know if I wanted to put these songs out” He told the audience “But I’m trying to speak what’s in the world, and its obvious to me that you guys like it” To roaring applause, we agreed. Not just because the songs rock, but because for most of us, we’ve finally found today’s protest songs. They’re well written, and with this good of a band, well performed too.
With the crowd pushed up right against the stage, Theo and his band really seemed to trade an abundance of energy with the crowd. “I feel totally relaxed right now” he said toward the end of the set “You guys are so cool, you’re listen-y, you dance, this is incredible. Is this just a Minneapolis thing?” He asked. “This is why we love coming here.” The crowd was no stranger to his songs, able to sing along to the choruses of Crappy Love Song (I Don’t Want To Be A) Billionaire and Hard Work. Even hyping up Bassist Joe Dart for his legendary solos, and chanting his name as he shredded it up.
Theo ended the night with a three song encore, completing the night on the piano with All’s Well That End’s Well. Sitting at the piano, he folded his hands and took deep breaths, waiting for the crowd to become quiet, like a teacher waiting for class to settle down before a lesson. Moments before total silence, a baby began to cry, which erupted the crowd – and Theo – into laughter. “Lets see if we can soothe him!” said Theo. Afterwards, the full band bowed before the crowd, and left the stage.
Standing outside the Cedar afterwards in a sea of denim jackets, there was nothing but positive chatter about the show. I’ve also never seen a huge amount of people leave a concert with vinyl records in their hands, which means that If a modern day artist is good enough to sell out their show, and their vinyl records in one night, they’re a master of their craft.