My Grandma Barrett’s name was Dorothy. She was a wonderful grandmother and while she would find this music loud, she would also find Dorothy Martin’s voice quite impressive and praise the young lady for bravely performing in front of such large crowds. I have to agree with my favorite Dorothy as we enjoyed the Friday night concert at a very packed Varsity Theater.
The Twin Cities own The Missing Letters were a bonus opening act but wrapped up their set before we could get to campus. Sounds like they are a local band to keep track of.
Brooklyn’s Spirit Animal proved to be a popular opening act with their fun brand of music. You may have seen them back in May at First Avenue when they along with The Glorious Sons opened for The Struts. Lead singer Steve Cooper dresses in nerdy-is-cool style and told the crowd that they were glad to be back and that all of the songs they would play tonight are from their new album Born Yesterday. They in fact played all eleven songs from the album beginning with “The Truth” with bearded baseball capped bassist Paul Michel laying down some heavy lines and dipping in synch with Cooper. Guitarist Cal Stamp also joined the synchronized-movement movement with Cooper and Michel in “Regular World.” Cooper asked the crowd who had all seen them before. “The best thing is tomorrow, you will have all seen us before. It’s science.”
Cooper taught the crowd to sing the easy chorus to “House on Fire” which proved to be a popular tune. “Painkiller” was also one of the better songs and featured the beats of drummer Ronen Evron. “Karma” was definitely a favorite of mine with its happy, silly vibe. It goes “I’m sleeping in my clothes on a mattress that I borrowed. And everyone I know is an internet model looking for a follow.” After this Cooper drew stern for a moment and said with all that is going on in the world they had a serious question to ask. That question was …. “Who wants to see Dorothy?” He was more serious about being proud to include a song like “Survival” on their album that is an important song about being able to make it. Before Spirit Animal’s final song, Cooper announced, “I love this town. We will be back!” Their final song was their soon-to-be-if-not-already-a-hit YEAH! as the crowd figured out quickly when to shout out a “Yeah!” They also figured out how addictive it is. One last tip from Cooper, “Don’t ask for a yellow shirt at our merch table. We don’t have yellow shirts. It’s banana f…ing cream!”
Tonight Dorothy proved to be much more than lead singer Dorothy Martin. Dorothy showed they are now truly a band, and an impressive one at that. Several times during the evening, the band (guitarist Owen Barry, guitarist Leroy Wulfmeier, bassist Eliot Lorango, and drummer Jason Ganberg) flexed their muscles during extended instrumental segments. They made us feel like we were transported back to 1969 watching the four long-haired, mustached musicians backing their lead singer.
“It’s cold out, but are you ready to raise a little hell?” Martin asked leading into the second song. I’ve always been a sucker for female singers who can really belt it out (Lzzy Hale for sure) and Dorothy Martin showed she is part of that club with “Raise Hell” off their debut album Rockisdead. Her voice is raw, powerful, and shrill enough to cut through the night. Some may compare her to Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, or mentor Linda Perry. But Martin’s sound is uniquely her own.
“Wow, what a beautiful venue,” Martin said of the festive Varsity Theater as she took a moment to recognize the crowd. “You guys have great energy! Eliot would know, he’s very sensitive,” she teased the bassist. “Ain’t Our Time to Die” from 28 Days in the Valley is a number that really leans on that late-60’s psychedelic rock with a roaming guitar solo by Owen Barry and it’s changes in tempo.
The stage lights turned blue and green for another top song from Rockisdead, “After Midnight,” which reminds us nothing good comes after midnight and turned guitar-heavy as the band continued to build energy and finish with an awesome finishing flurry that you won’t find on the album version.
The show took a light-hearted turn with “Pretty When You’re High” from 28 Days with some resemblance to Sheryl Crow’s California style. Definitely catchy and a crowd swaying tune. “Medicine Man” started with some unusual rhythms from drummer Jason Ganberg and is was a slower, chanting piece until the guitars built to yet another loud guitar finish as Martin exited the stage for a breather. Meanwhile Barry, Wolfmeier, Lorango, and Ganberg jammed for several minutes in entertaining fashion and earning the “We are not worthy” bows from their lead singer as she observed from the side-stage stairs.
She returned with one of my favorites in “Whiskey Fever” with simple yet real-life lyrics of “Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey fever. You’re my evil, you’re my evil.” To the slower “Philadelphia” Martin swayed and rolled as she sang softly “Love me in the night. Hate me when you’re gone.”
The pace picked up with a fast pounding drum beat and Martin telling the crowd, “Minneapolis, you know what to do!” The fans did know and began clapping in quick rhythm as Dorothy launched into my favorite song from 28 Days, “Who Do You Love.” After a slowing interlude the fast drumming and clapping restarted with Martin beckoning the crowd to sing the chorus “Who do you love when your love’s run dry?” They were loud and Martin agreed, telling them, “You all sound great!”
Still donning her hat, the stunning singer reminded everyone, “Valentine’s Day is in two weeks. I’ve dated plenty of assholes. Don’t give up. The right one will come along. Remember, you are beautiful.” This was the lead into Dorothy’s mega-hit “Flawless” which took the energy in the full house up another notch as attendees waved hands side-to-side and sang along as Martin observed, “Oh, you guys know the words.” As the song ended Martin demanded that the house lights be turned on so she could see everyone. “This is why love is the strongest thing in the world. Thanks for coming out tonight. If you didn’t we’d be playing in Eliot’s mom’s basement.”
“Do you know “Down to the Bottom”,” Martin asked the crowd of their 2017 single. This one had the crowd stomping along to the strong bass line, screaming guitar solo by Barry, and a drum solo by Ganberg under a blue spot light. After introducing the band, Martin said they had just one more song which was “Freedom.” “Thank you Minneapolis. Best show ever!” she proclaimed as she left the stage and the band jammed on before reluctantly exiting stage in embrace.
A hearty chant of “Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy,…” brought Martin back to stage to thank opening band Spirit Animal and telling fans, “This is the sad part when we must say goodbye until we come back next winter (they were here January 2017 and now February 2018).” The encore song she chose was “Shelter” with only Wulfmeier supporting her on guitar as he stood directly behind the impressive singer. After asking the crowd to sing with her “Will you give me shelter?” she took over again. “Shelter” really allowed Martin to showcase her incredible voice although she stopped abruptly after feeling she didn’t quite hit the high note like she should. “When we come back for the stadium show, I’ll hit the big note. I don’t know if you guys know it but half the time we are winging it up here. But that’s OK, music is about freedom. Minneapolis, we’ll be back!” The rest of the band returned for a stage bow and that was a wrap. Nice job Dorothy. Grandma Dorothy would be proud.