Healthcare. Drake. Two of the greatest Justin’s – Justin Trudeau and Justin Bieber. And Leif Vollebekk. These are a few of my favorite Canadian things. Montreal based singer/songwriter (and possibly part-time stand up comedian), stopped by 7th Street Entry this Wednesday night with a little help from Minneapolis-based Sam Cassidy for an evening of music. Vollebekk is currently touring in support of his third album Twin Solitude.
Opening up the evening with the most dreamy of acoustic sets was Sam Cassidy. Cassidy hails from right here in Minneapolis and wasted no time diving into his roughly 40-minute set. I first caught Cassidy when he played Sofar Sounds Minneapolis a couple months back. Cassidy alternates between acoustic and full band sets (Red Daughters). But last night was just a man, his guitar and one hell of a set of pipes. Cassidy’s set was stripped back and raw. Out of the most unassuming man came the most hauntingly beautiful vocals. A cabinetmaker by trade, Cassidy looks more like someone who worked with my dad on the ranch in the late 70s than one of the Twin Cities Best New Artists. Lyrically his songs tell stories of the ups and downs of life, working hard to play hard and the blue-collar life. An enraptured Entry hung on Cassidy’s every move and every word, “you guys are such an attentive audience, seriously, thank you,” Cassidy said mid-way through his set. Sam Cassidy is high on the must-see list of local artists. Be sure to stay tuned with Sam Cassidy on Facebook, Twitter, and “all that bullshit.” His words, not mine.As 7th Street Entry began to fill up (always impressive on week night), Leif Vollebekk and his three-piece band took to the stage. Vollebekk was really one I couldn’t miss live, since first getting hooked on his heartfelt, piano-driven tracks, the soundtrack to many of my bi-weekly existential crises. I walked in expecting a bit more a somber set from this singer/songwriter but last night was anything but. Sprinkled between the most bone-chillingly beautiful songs was Vollebekk’s charming and witty banter only topped by his thousand-watt smile. As Vollebekk played through his roughly hour-long set, it was an up and down of emotion. In between songs such as Elegy (yes, as in the funeral poem) and Vancouver Time, Vollebekk offered some comedic relief. The Entry was smitten. “I love you!” a girl yelled from the crowd. “My mom pays a lot of people to come to my shows. She worries about me so she puts my shows on Reddit,” Vollebekk said without missing a beat.
“This is my favorite city in America, no lie,” Vollebekk said at the beginning of his set. “They were like do you wanna play the West Coast and then we can fly you home or do you wanna play the Midwest too? I was like what does that mean? And they were like well you know, 10-hour drive days and you’ll play a bunch of empty places along the way but you’ll get to play to Minneapolis and Chicago,” Vollebekk went on about the planning on the North American leg of his tour. “And I was like, Minneapolis??” Vollebekk said grinning. “So we’ve been on the road for three years, we just walk. I’m kidding, we have donkeys,” he went on. Throughout his set, it was evident Vollebekk wasn’t just stroking our fragile Minnesotan egos, but he truly loves this city. And the feeling was mutual. Mid-way through his set Vollebekk sat at the piano, tapping his fingers, “I’m trying to decide what Prince song I should butcher for you guys. I don’t know if this is the best idea or the worst idea, but I’m doing it,” Vollebekk said ahead of How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore cover. This was a particularly special treat for Minneapolis, as Vollebekk has never played this live before.
I stood in the back of 7th Street watching Vollebekk so effortlessly switch between piano, acoustic guitar, electrical guitar and harmonica, playing each instrument with every ounce of his being. If Bob Dylan and Hank Williams and Prince had a baby – their love child would be Leif Vollebekk. Vollebekk played through his set with that antenna-to-God vibe, making everything he does look so effortlessly beautiful.
Vollebekk closed out his set before being cheered back on stage for an encore (Into The Ether). “I’m still learning how to do encores,” Vollebekk said. As the evening came to a close, the crowd lingered as if wanting to soak in the magic of Vollebekk just a few minutes longer.
Leif Vollebekk continues his tour in Chicago tomorrow night.