Twin Cities own Collapsing Stars opened the show taking the stage in what you might call formal-casual with seated cellists (I think one in training) on each side of the stage next to candelabras. Justin Wayne Nelson also sat center stage, in jeans and donning a Twins cap, his guitar ready, microphone lowered and the show started. They played songs off their lone studio album 2012 and began with a more subdued folk. As they advanced to each of the next songs, the style transitioned to more blues and rock and the volume and energy increased with heavier bass offered by Adam Heaney. The addition of the cello gives the band a unique sound and they finally showcased cellist Ally Strycharske near the end. Speaking with drummer Mike Langhoff after their set, he said it’s possible you be able to catch them for a longer set soon at the Cedar. Stay tuned. They are also working on a new album and will plan to tour after that. I’m excited to hear their new work.
The pre-show recorded music of Phil Collins was fitting for a band whose drummer is the lead singer. Drum set placed front and center on the stage. That’s where Phil Leavitt took his place after running out on stage at 9:15pm. 7Horse’s drummer and singer was looking fit and Vegas-sharp with his stylish eyewear, shiny shaved head, shinier metallic gold lounge jacket, and even shinier black shoes. Guitarist Joie Calio was in classic black-on-black musician attire, to match his jet black hair, as he joined his long-time musical partner on stage. The two played together for years in the band dada (I’m sure you know their hit song “Dizz Knee Land.” You know, “I’m going to Disneyland.”)
7Horse is a different animal. Bluesy, dirty rock and roll is their sound. This is their eighth year together as 7Horse. The name comes from Leavitt remembering his grandfather always betting on the 7 horse at the track. Their writing describes the non-glamorous side of Vegas living that Leavitt grew up in. But he also learned to appreciation the lounge singers and classic show business world. Both of these were evident as they lead off the night with Low Fuel Drug Run from their 2011 debut album Let the 7 Horse Run.
Watching the first number, my first thought was how difficult it must be to be the lead singer of a rock band while also drumming. We’ve all seen the occasional song that the drummer sings to give the vocalist a rest. And it usually appears limited as far as expression and feeling. Leavitt showed he is able to let his body go on auto-pilot to handle the drums while he sings with plenty of expression and meaning.
I thought you said the band is a duo? Who is that third guy in the cool shades and western shirt working the bass? That’s MK touring with the band on bass and backing vocals. Don’t ask me to pick him out of a line-up though, as I might falsely accuse Brian Whelan (multi-instrumentalist who assisted in the studio on Superfecta) of touring on bass. Leavitt explained that he knew MK from their days in the Blue Man Group in Las Vegas (he thinks they had a great time, but hardly remembers it!) A separate jockey riding the bass guitar definitely adds depth to the live show and frees up Calio to focus on only the guitar parts and have some fun. The added background vocals are cool too (“woo woos” in stereo.) Plus you have to admit MK is a cool looking dude and helps balance out the stage with Leavitt centered between the guitar and bass.
“Twin Cities, what’s up?” Leavitt asked a modest crowd at the Turf Club. Not the temps. Also not the number of fans in attendance, as a very cold November weekday evening was at least partly to blame for a disappointing crowd of just over one hundred fans. No matter. “We are going to play some new songs you’ve never heard before.” Leavitt wasn’t kidding as they played six new tracks off of their new album Superfecta, scheduled to drop on December 7th. Lucky us to get such a preview.
The second song of the night was VictorioUS. This is the opening track on Superfecta. A high energy number showcasing Calio’s guitar playing including a rare extended solo. The fans appeared to enjoy this new number with someone yelling, “That’s rock and roll!” Ain’t that the truth and 7Horse plays a brand of music meant to be enjoyed live. That’s why I’m a bit embarrassed that more Minnesotans couldn’t drag themselves off the couch to come see such a great live performance.
It was immediately clear that Leavitt is the front man of this band and he made sure to speak briefly between each song and told the few but faithful, “We are starting a movement. Do you want to join our movement? The movement is people having a good time, a really good time.” Before leading into the next song (another new one) he added, “You do need to get home safely though,” as the title of this one was Die Behind the Wheel.
Next the band turned to their 2016 album Livin’ in a Bitch of a World for a pair of songs. First, Two Stroke Machine started off with Leavitt picking up some maracas to get it going. When the song hit the main guitar riff section the crowd seemed to recognize. This song makes you understand why some have described them as a two-man Rolling Stones. It has that sound. Following that was the title track from Livin’ in a Bitch of a World and it boosted the energy level significantly. What a song! My personal favorite.
Calio sang and played slide guitar on Please Come on Home which starts with him sampling some of Gerry Rafferty’s oft-covered “Baker Street” but in western slide-guitar style. But then the normally reserved Calio got down right forceful as the song forges into full-out blues number. The veteran musician is doing his part to keep guitar manufacturers in business with his stable of over a half-dozen guitars, plus providing a full time job for his guitar tech.
“7Horse is an American Band!” Leavitt exclaimed proudly as the band regrouped. The Stars and Stripes adorning their backdrop and displayed on the drummer’s bass drum backed that up. He said, “It’s great to travel across the country. But it’s cold.” “Not too cold here though. I wore my short pants,” he surely jested. “I don’t care which way you lean, but you have to admit politics in this country is crazy,” he continued as they launched into “What Is America” from Superfecta. You can find the lyric video for this one on 7Horsemusic.com. This one should prove to be popular and is poised for use in movies and advertising.
“I don’t know about you but I’m getting unfriended on Facebook like a MF,” said Leavitt as they played another new one, “All My Friends (Hate Me in the End)” which he added, “Is the song of my life.” This one also went over well with the fans loosely gathered in front of the stage. While the Turf Club offers the luxury of numerous tables and bar seating for patrons, it does keep many from venturing up to the front of the stage. Frustrating for the band I’m sure.
After Calio handled vocals on “Most of That is You and Me”, Leavitt picked up the red and white megaphone that had been patiently waiting for its turn in the show. Going to the front of the stage he barked, “I need to check all of your ID’s.” He used the megaphone on their cover of “Man in Black” and proclaimed, “You can’t beat Johnny Cash!” Fact.
“Shining Light” from Superfecta was then dedicated to all of the women that help 7Horse behind the scenes. Leavitt then asked, “Who in the crowd is drinking? Who’s drinking whiskey? I’m going to put in my drink order.” “So Old Fashioned” was the next offering. Before playing “What Kind of Man” as their final song from the upcoming album, the trio huddled and axed (probably due to the disappointing turn out) their planned cover of “Stayin Alive” (darn, hoping to see a band cover both The Bee Gees and Johnny Cash in one show) and instead skipped to what the drummer said is their anthem, “Meth Lab Zoso Sticker.” Even those in attendance unfamiliar with 7Horse instantly recognized it from Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winning film, The Wolf of Wall Street. Show over. 14 songs in 65 minutes. Immediate exit music, a recording of Neil Young’s “Rockin in the Free World,” signaled there would be no encore. 7Horse rides out of town. Twin Cities music fans, next time let’s pack the house for 7Horse!
I posted the full set list HERE