concerts

Review: Mariah Carey Put Her Catalog on Shuffle in First Minneapolis Concert Ever

The chart-topping chanteuse served statistics and whistle notes galore.

Photo: Monique Sowinski

Photo: Monique Sowinski

Legend — Icon — “Hero”… No single descriptor can define the actual greatness that is Mariah Carey, the voice of multiple generations who graced Minneapolis with her genre-defying vocals last night. 

Carey released #1 to Infinity in 2014; the album and accompanying Las Vegas residency were a chronological setlist of her 18 number one hits. After subsequent tours also emphasized those chart toppers, fans were desperate for different material to be played live. 

Enter Caution World Tour, a fan service tour in the best of ways. It may not have “One Sweet Day,” but it has Glitter tracks sung live for the very first time. Not to mention new music from Caution, largely considered by critics and fans to be her best album since The Emancipation of Mimi

Last night’s Minneapolis show played at the State Theatre — an ornate and gorgeous venue — which is probably the closest match to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace that Minnesota offers. Fitting, as Carey has described Caution World Tour as her “most intimate tour yet.” 

Ever fabulously aloof, Carey seemingly did not realize this was her first full-length gig here, simply telling the crowd it was “good to be back.” Still, the crowd welcomed her with a deafening roar. With its domed ceiling and sloped walls, the State Theatre feeds crowd noise back to the crowd, causing a heightened effect. 

The sound mixing did not help; it was not good — and Carey herself agreed. The diva talked between virtually every song, and threw subtle shade at sound and lighting technicians along the way. Her in-ear monitors were distorted, probably much like the blaring audio coming from the arena-sized front-of-house speakers. This was the weak point of an otherwise great concert, although the engineers did seem to find their groove during the latter half of the show. 

The eclectic setlist was a shuffle-mode journey through Carey’s entire career, spanning from her debut single “Vision of Love,” to the current Caution single “A No No.” Minneapolis audibly favored the older material, which meant those songs were harder to hear over crowd noise. This allowed for her soothing, chill Caution album cuts to shine, as the largely Generation X crowd was experiencing these songs for the first time. It meant her pristine vocals were entirely audible, with every note coming through pitch perfect. Although she did not lip sync, her vocals were still studio-quality. Whistle notes and all. It’s her gift.

The Caution highlight was “8th Grade,” a confessional pop song that recalls the awkwardness around a middle school crush, something her twins Roc and Roe may experience soon enough. The twins made a cameo at the tail end of “Always Be My Baby,” microphones in hand, to sing along and say, “Hi, Minneapolis.” 

Photo: Monique Sowinski

Photo: Monique Sowinski

Visually, the show featured the edge-to-edge 4K video screen popularized by fellow Las Vegas theater acts like Britney Spears. Background visuals were tastefully done and never distracting. Things shown ranged from moody, screensaver-esque simplicity to photo booth-style family pictures. Carey stunned in five dresses designed by Johnny Wujek and The Blonds

There were moments of Mariah’s World-level over-the-top-ness, like Carey being joined on stage by makeup artist Kristofer Buckle and hairstylist Miles Jeffries for touch ups. She acknowledged it as a “diva” moment and said other female pop singers do the same, just backstage. The crowd did not mind, screaming all manner of RuPaul’s Drag Race-like affirmations at Carey. 

Although the length of the show seemed standard, a few songs from previous stops were axed; the slow-burn ballads “Portrait,” “My Saving Grace” and “Looking In." The final song on Caution, “Portrait” would have shown the oldies-loving Twin Cities crowd that Carey still can pen a poignant R&B track. The removal makes sense, though, as the midsection of the show is already heavy on similarly relaxed songs.

The much-hyped #JusticeForGlitter medley of Glitter soundtrack songs felt exhilarating. Carey clearly enjoyed giving some truly terrific tracks their just dessert moment; although just one minute of “Loverboy” wasn’t enough. One could have half-expected for Minneapolis-located Glitter production duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis to pop on stage for a cameo like they did at the last Janet Jackson show, but they did not — and were not mentioned. 

Maybe it was that the crowd universally knew the songs again, but the 2000s-throwback performances of “Touch My Body” and “We Belong Together” were the loudest singalongs of the night. Carey was sure to let the crowd know “Body” was her 18th #1 hit, which was not the first time she shared a statistic. Got to love a queen who knows her Billboard magazine trivia.

In the penultimate moments of the show, Trey Lorenz — backup vocalist and R&B star in his own right — introduced the band. Lorenz had a genuinely humble moment when the crowd roared for him; “You guys remember me?” The crowd did, and it felt like a missed opportunity that Carey and Lorenz didn’t recreate their MTV Unplugged duet version of “I’ll Be There” onstage.

Carey’s four male backup dancers broke it down with tight choreography and an endless supply of charisma. Julio Marcelino was the standout. In “Heartbreaker” — hands down the best performance of the night — Marcelino appeared on stage dressed as “Bianca,” Carey’s alter-ego and fake nemesis. The two duked it out in a staged fight, with the diva knocking Marcelino out in a hilarious “TKO.” 

Mariah Carey re-emerged for a two-song encore, starting with her single “With You.” Last year’s top ten Billboard Adult Contemporary hit connected with the crowd more than other Caution cuts. The show closed with Carey admitting “Hero” is still her go-to setlist closer because “the message is still there.” After belting out every last note of the iconic hit, Carey thanked the crowd for their support since the beginning of her career — and most importantly, now. 


What’s your favorite Mariah Carey song? Tweet me: @DerekPlease

Interview: Miz Cracker Talks Touring the World After RuPaul's Drag Race

The Season 10 stunner teases what’s to come

Photo from Miz Cracker

Photo from Miz Cracker

Season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race ended in June, but cast standout Miz Cracker has already performed in Minneapolis more times than queens from past seasons! After her third show here in a few months’ time, I got a chance to speak with her about what keeps her coming back for more. 

Derek: Hi, Miz Cracker! Thank you for taking the time to do an interview with me. I had the chance to speak with Monet for the last M&P tour, and she spoke highly of you. What has life been like for you since RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 ended?

Miz Cracker: It’s December now, and I’m realizing that this has been the most eventful year of my life. Since the show, I’ve visited almost a dozen countries, worked with some of my idols and hosted two national tours. Incredible.

D: Your Drag Race reaction series Review with a Jew is hilarious. Can we expect more during All Stars 4, and possibly even Season 11? 

MC: I don’t think I could show my face to the world if I didn’t continue Review with a Jew. Also, Katelyn my copilot in life would come break my legs. It’s our baby, our “art” and our biggest achievement. 

D: Is there a Miz Cracker album in the works?

MC: I mean, Cher covered ABBA. Is it time for me to cover Cher covering ABBA?

D: What are some of your goals for 2019?

MC: My goal for 2019 is to really put my philosophy to work—show the world that drag can do amazing things for queers and women in a real way. Stay tuned for more. I can’t tell too much.

D: You recently performed your one woman show “It’s Time!” and co-hosted Murray & Peter Present War On the Catwalk - The Queens of Season 10, both here in Minneapolis, before hosting this Christmas tour stop. What’s your favorite part of performing here?

MC: I’m not gassing you up when I say Katelyn and I love the Twin Cities. I’m not even sure what it is—the wild audiences? The good diners? The quirky event spaces? We’ve been all over the world and we CAN’T get enough of this place.
D: Give a tease of what audiences will experience on the Murray & Peter Present A Drag Queen Christmas - The Naughty Tour

MC: I’ve never had so much fun on a group tour honestly. Audiences should expect a group of wildly different queens poking fun at each other mercilessly and still celebrating their differences. Some penis jokes. And a lot of jokes about my recent weight gain. Honestly, I’m not always this cheery. I just happen to love this tour and this city.


What’s your favorite Miz Cracker moment? Tweet me! @DerekPlease

Review: Troye Sivan Brings The Bloom Tour to a Sold-Out State Theatre

Sivan stunned alongside well-matched opening acts Kim Petras and Carlie Hanson

Photo Credits, Left to Right: Danielle DeGrasse-Alston; Charlotte Rutherford; Naohmi Monroe

Photo Credits, Left to Right: Danielle DeGrasse-Alston; Charlotte Rutherford; Naohmi Monroe

Troye Sivan

Photo: Brackett Hardy

Photo: Brackett Hardy

After releasing the personal-yet-glossy debut album Blue Neighbourhood in late 2015, Troye Sivan and co. elaborated upon its original content for the US singles; by remixing and adding an Alessia Cara feature, “Wild” became less unique, and more radio-friendly. His no-holds-barred sophomore album Bloom pivots completely in the opposite direction, fully leaning into the personal side with little-to-no audible sense of catering to radio. As a track title suggests, it’s truly “The Good Side” of Sivan. 

Photo: Joey Diaz

Photo: Joey Diaz

His sold-out State Theatre crowd on October 17 was unanimously supportive of that artistic decision, having already memorized every single syllable of all Bloom tracks performed — despite it being less than two months after the LP’s release. That’s the kind of devoted fandom that the 23-year-old Australian singer has cultivated through genuine connection with supporters both online and in person.

Blue Neighbourhood songs were met with a mix of sweet nostalgia and fresh excitement, as surely only a portion of the State Theatre-sized crowd was able to pack into First Avenue for Sivan’s previous Minneapolis gig a few years back. Many fans were hearing their old favorites live for the first time, like “Wild,” on which one of Sivan’s fantastic female backing vocalists sang Alessia Cara’s guest verse. That trend continued in performances songs like “Heaven” and “Dance to This,” with the backing vocalists lending their talents to parts originally sang by Betty Who and Ariana Grande, respectively. 

At times The Bloom Tour felt so interactive, that in the best way it was less a show than a 360 experience. Phones were up, but unlike most concerts in 2018, people didn’t seem desperate to capture the moment. They seemed to understand the best way to capture the moment, was to actually be in it — something Troye Sivan encouraged throughout the night, rewarding individual fans in the crowd with meet and greets and kudos for birthdays and handing out flyers before the show. The crowd even interacted with the crowd, such as when friend groups separated by rows, aisles and even the balcony were seen waving and pantomiming in between and during performances.

Photo: Joachim Johnson

Photo: Joachim Johnson

The full-out dancing and excitement of the crowd during songs like “Bite” was encouraged by the artist himself, both outright in his banter in between songs, and in the Las Vegas club-like light rig on the back of the stage. Epilepsy warning signs were posted outside entrances, as the intense light show was intentionally bold, yet seriously exhilarating. 

There’s a lot of talk about how Sivan feels like familiar artists — David Bowie, Adam Lambert, Lorde — but not enough talk about how he’s unlike anyone else. Able to bring fans together, in the moment, in the otherwise disassociated times we live in. Able to ignite an entire crowd, but also single out individual fans for their contribution to his show. And perhaps it’s due to the venue not being able to handle stadium-level crowd roar, but I cannot for the life of me remember back to a concert with crowd feedback on par with The Bloom Tour. Not even at Madonna, or peak Britney.

Mere human ears cannot distinguish individual sounds when Sivan elicits peak response from fans in rapture. It’s hard to describe the sensation of your sense of hearing temporarily shorting out due to one human being in the front of room being the target of utter pandemonium. It just feels like pure love. 

Kim Petras

Photo by Charlotte Rutherford

Photo by Charlotte Rutherford

We’re in a drought. The wells of pop music have been dried up for a while now, with most well-known pop acts pivoting to other genres like country and R&B to appeal to changing tastes in the general public. Who can save us with a bubblegum pop anthem on the level of Britney Spears’ pop genre-resurrecting 1998 debut single “…Baby One More Time”?

The clear frontrunner is Kim Petras, a 26-year-old Millennial pop artist that is a perfect antidote for an otherwise pretty boring sonic landscape. Already a favorite on “Stan” Twitter — the social network’s community of rabid pop music fans — Petras has quickly proceeded to win the Twin Cities’ affection with a successful radio campaign for her most notable track, “Heart to Break.” Fittingly, she took a moment to thank local Top 40 station KDWB for playing that single more often than any other station in the United States. 

Photo by Charlotte Rutherford

Photo by Charlotte Rutherford

In “Heart to Break,” Kim Petras belts a strong pop chorus written about reckless abandon in newfound love. It’s the kind of vocally challenging chorus that relies solely on the strength of the lead singer, and just as Petras nailed it in the studio, she delivered live on stage in Minneapolis. Her sincere vocals layered perfectly over the slamming pop beat of her backing DJ/co-producer Aaron Joseph, making the infectious bop-of-a-song a perfect match for the authenticity-seeking crowd of Troye Sivan fans. 

Fans were also lit-up by performances of fresh tracks from her deservedly-lauded Halloween mixtape Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1. The ghostly crooner “Tell Me It’s a Nightmare” pulls double duty as a pop banger and somewhat of a torch ballad. Both Petras and Joseph took things to new heights, jumping up and down to beat-heavy tracks like this and “I Don’t Want It At All.” 

Though she has said, “I just hate the idea of using my identity as a tool,” Kim Petras’ identity as a transgender woman is another aspect that makes her a needed addition to current mainstream music. While the Trump administration actively moves to legislate away trans rights, Petras serves as a bubblegum pop champion for our times; showing LGBT kids and adults alike that they can succeed against adversity. The LGBT community’s support of out and proud public figures like her has become vital to our community’s freedom. 

Kim Petras ended her State Theatre set with a triumphant vocal performance of “Can’t Do Better,” a fittingly titled anthem about a lover not being able to find a replacement for her. Fans of pop music likely also can’t do better than Petras, a rare artist that mixes power pop with power vocals. 

Carlie Hanson

Photo by Naohmi Monroe

Photo by Naohmi Monroe

[Review by Jake]

Alongside her band, 18-year-old pop artist Carlie Hanson emerged on stage to thunderous applause from a crowd generally close to her age. She immediately launched into “Why Did You Lie?” — an exciting first song, full of energy that pumped up the crowd. 

Photo by Naohmi Monroe

Photo by Naohmi Monroe

Hanson announced her next song was “Toxins,” a new single that would debut on streaming platforms only two days later. She bounced across the stage while her infectious hook and her bands’ skilled playing enchanted the State Theatre. Despite the song not being out yet at the time, many in the crowd were seen bobbing their heads and dancing in their seats.

A personal touch came when Hanson interacted with the lit-up crowd, announcing that her best friends from her hometown of Blue Cross, Wisconsin were at the show. She complemented this more tender moment with a more chill, unreleased song, “Hazel,” notable for its hypnotic beat. Background lighting was used very well during this performance, starting with blue hues, then greens shifting into blaring reds in the chorus.

The effervescent Hanson invited everyone to sing along to her streaming hits, and also took care to properly introduce her band members. She proclaimed her last song — the Instagram and Drake-referencing “Us” — was “a fuck you anthem,” and asked the won-over crowd stick their middle fingers up. Lighting once again lent an artful touch to the performance, with deep and dark reds that transformed the State Theatre into a darkroom, with bright white strobe lights during the chorus for emphasis.


What’s your favorite Troye Sivan song? DM me on Instagram.

Exclusive: Monét X Change Talks Touring & RuPaul's Drag Race

To know her is to love her. Monét X Change was not only a fan-favorite on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10, but a cast-favorite as well; her own competition voted her Miss Congeniality, in a special election after the public Internet poll was hacked. It was a privilege to speak to this wise and polished performer prior to her upcoming national tour, Murray & Peter Present War on the Catwalk: The Queens of Season 10.

Photo © Monét X Change

Photo © Monét X Change


Derek: How has your life changed since appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10?

Photo © Monét X Change

Photo © Monét X Change

Monét X Change: My life has changed by being able to travel and show the world all that I've learned by being one of the top queens in NYC; comedy, drama, “dancing," and singing.

D: What was it like being voted Miss Congeniality by your fellow cast mates?

MXC: Being voted Miss Congeniality was, seriously, very shocking to me. Like, I knew that I was genuine with the other girls during filming, but to see them acknowledge and honor me for that was very humbling.  

D: Your music video “Soak It Up (feat. Bob the Drag Queen)” wrings out your memorable, meme-worthy sponge costume for laughs. Do you have any fun memories from shooting it? 

MXC: First of all, ...it's a gown. How dare you?! Shooting with Bob was so much fun. My favorite memory was adhering the poof to Bob's head. He hated the poof when the show aired, and it brought me nothing but joy and pleasure to make him wear one. 

D: How did your collaboration with Bob come about? 

MXC: Because the thought of me doing anything without him makes Bob very jealous. So, he weaseled his way into my damn song! 

D: This summer you appeared on another iconic TV show, What Would You Do? Your segment explored bystanders’ reactions to two parents disapproving of their son being a drag queen. What was your main takeaway from that experience? 

MXC: My main takeaway was seeing how bold and understanding New Yorkers can be. Most of the diners were ready to stand up to those parents, without knowing anything about him. I think it really speaks to the hearts of most New Yorkers. 

D: You’re about to begin co-hosting Murray & Peter Present War on the Catwalk: The Queens from Season 10 with Miz Cracker. What can your fans expect to see on the nationwide tour? 

MXC: I think my fans can expect to see me in my natural habitat, telling jokes, being silly and making them laugh. Cracker and I worked together for a very long time in New York City, so we have a dynamic that you can't buy. We know each other very well, and are able to bring an audience into our realm of comfortability ...while making fun of Yuhua [Hamasaki]’s terrible "fashions."


Review: Taylor Swift Reinvents the Stadium Tour in Minneapolis

The singer-songwriter effortlessly redefines the type of show US Bank Stadium can house, with a mammoth pop concert that somehow still feels intimate.

This article is set to appear inside Issue 122 of Twin Cities Gay Scene magazine.

Photo: DerekPlease.com 

August 31, 2018

A giant video wall that can rearrange itself in over 30 ways. Four-story-tall inflatable snakes with glowing eyes. Fire eruptions from the top of the stage, bathing the stadium in heat. Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour was not your average Friday night at US Bank Stadium. The Minneapolis venue was packed with over 40,000 devoted fans, many dressed up in costume for the occasion.

If The 1989 World Tour found Taylor Swift perfecting her approach to an arena tour, the Reputation Stadium Tour finds Swift revolutionizing the stadium tour on her first try. The music and imagery had a darker vibe this time around, but Swift still kept things personal, despite the large increase in venue size. She took frequent pauses to connect with the crowd, confessing meanings behind tracks and giving speeches that segued into her next song selection. She teased the crowd before “Gorgeous,” asking them for a word that describes something that is more than beautiful. When they shouted the song’s title, she replied with a wink, “That’s the one!” 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

Her transition into “Delicate” was so smooth, I heard a fan say, “I see what you did there, Taylor.” It’s those clever details that make Taylor Swift concerts feel so natural and effortless. Whereas other pop acts get lost in the excess of their arena tour stages, Swift still commands full attention on a massive stadium stage composed of the aforementioned video wall, two T-shaped runways, and two separate b-stages. 

There were fun surprises, like Swift’s cats Meredith and Olivia popping up on the video wall. Or when comedian Tiffany Haddish appeared on the video screen to do “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone now” bit during “Look What You Made Me Do.” That performance was a standout, incorporating a giant see-saw platform that dancers balanced on as it tilted back and forth. 

With the grandiose stage and a visually inventive crew of interpretive backup dancers, Swift delivered dramatic, engaging performances of hits like “Look What You Made Me Do” and “End Game” that surpassed the best pop tours in recent memory. With its visual storytelling and massive set pieces, Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour is the most theatrical pop concert tour since Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. 

Theatrical, but also movie-like in some ways. The video wall mainly displayed live closeup footage of Swift, which served as a way for fans in the nosebleed sections to see her reactions and intricate dance moves. The camerawork was above average, including special effects, dolly shots and 4K quality that made it feel like you were watching a concert DVD. Swift sang directly to the camera countless times throughout her set, giving everyone a chance to feel like they got some face time with her. Another way the experience felt DVD-like was the inclusion of behind-the-scenes featurettes, which played on the video wall before and after the show. 

Another cinematic touch was a gorgeous visual interlude featuring Swift performing an original poem, “Why She Disappeared.” The highly personal poem felt like a missing piece of the reputation album — it would have made a great spoken word interlude track on the LP.

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"...the most

theatrical pop concert tour since Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour."

Musically, the show had a cohesive vibe, thanks to a majority of the reputation album track list being performed. But when Swift got in a gondola and flew over the crowd to a b-stage, a welcome shake-up came; opening acts Charli XCX and Camila Cabello joined Swift for a joyous, pure pop rendition of her US #1 hit “Shake It Off.” Once XCX and Cabello left the stage, Swift went into full-on singer-songwriter mode, performing a couple songs with just her guitar. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com 

Joan Jett’s classic anthem “Reputation” had blared over the loudspeakers just before the concert began. Released in 1980, the song that somehow still sounds fresh today. It made me wonder if Swift’s own reputation songs will stand that test of time. Swift answered that query in a variety of ways. First, by thanking the crowd for standing by her for 13 years and 25 shows in the local area. Swift also gave special thanks to fans for sticking with her for so long; she told the crowd she was moved to realize she isn’t just a passing phase in fans’ musical journey, but a permanent fixture. Finally, she proved great song craft is what makes songs timeless. Her b-stage acoustic version of reputation track “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” showed even her most current-sounding songs can be stripped back to basics and sound timeless. 

Photo: DerekPlease.com

She kept the “just me and a guitar” vibe going, prefacing her Minneapolis night one acoustic surprise song with a warning: it was written a long time ago. That didn’t stop most of the crowd from singing along upon realizing it was “Begin Again,” a tender and confessional country single from her 2012 album Red. 

Snippets and choruses from past country songs were infused into her stadium-rocking pop hits throughout the night, and these mashups were inspired. Whereas The 1989 World Tour gave its few country throwback songs pop and rock makeovers, Reputation Stadium Tour embraces the country versions to the immense joy of the crowd. One of the biggest roars of the night came after Swift nonchalantly referenced her career beginnings in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Swift returned to the main stage to perform more full-scale numbers with her band and dancers, including a standout performance of her country hit “Should’ve Said No,” which was mixed into a performance of her similarly-themed pop anthem “Bad Blood.” The country-pop infusions culminated in an epic performance of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” mashed up with the reputation standout “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” During “Nice Things,” the video wall transformed into a fancy hotel, which was blown to smithereens as Swift belted lyrics about ex-friends unworthy of her generosity. The imagery was evocative of how the tour itself is breaking the mold of what a stadium tour can be. Taylor Swift has proven that a stadium show should feel just as intimate as one of her Secret Sessions living room concerts — and can, if she wills it to be so. 

Opening Acts

Charli XCX

A beacon of pure pop energy, Charli XCX performed an electric set in a see-through holographic jumpsuit. XCX led the crowd through choreographed movement and cheers, effortlessly getting the party started. She also declared the stadium a safe space during a touching dedication to her LGBT fans. 

Her radio hits “Boom Clap,” “I Love It,” and “Fancy” had the US Bank Stadium crowd singing along to every word. She also played newer tracks like the glittering “Unlock It” and the dark, sultry hip-hop/pop hybrid “5 in the Morning.” The latter would sound at home on a playlist with tracks from Swift’s reputation album. 

Camila Cabello

Fresh off winning Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards, Camila Cabello walked on stage at US Bank Stadium wearing a custom-made Minnesota Vikings football jersey, belting her top ten-charting “Never Be the Same.” Joined by a live band and some free styling dancers, Cabello confessed she loves performing in Minneapolis-St. Paul. 

“You guys are a music city. There’s no crowd louder,” she said, smiling from ear to ear. “Any time I come to this city, the crowds are so loud.” 

Another personalized touch came when Cabello snuck in a musical tribute to Minneapolis’ own Prince. Cabello’s band mixed samples from Prince’s iconic hit “Kiss” into a dance break portion of her set. 

Performances of deep cuts from her debut album Camila stood out, proving she has more potential hits waiting on the sidelines. She closed out her charismatic set with her US #1 hit “Havana.” It was the perfect monster hit song to fully warm up the stadium crowd before the woman of the hour, Taylor Swift, emerged.


You can find upcoming dates to Taylor Swift's Reputation World Tour here.


What's your favorite Taylor Swift song? Tell me on social media: @DerekPlease on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat!