Soul Asylum and McNasty Brass Band at First Avenue


This Friday was a good night to be a music fan in the Twin Cities. Even with snow in the forecast and frigid temperatures on the horizon, that didn’t stop fans from turning out for one of the most anticipated shows of the season – Soul Asylum, with McNasty Brass Band kicking the evening off. And for those who did brave the cold on Friday night, it was every bit worth it.

The opener for the evening was McNasty Brass Band, a modern brass band made up a handful of guys who met at McNally Smith, right here in the Twin Cities. In our interview with Dave Pirner prior to the show, he even gave them a nod as a Minnesota band doing something very New Orleans style in their music. He called their music charming and important, and their live set was just that. It was all incredibly charming and endearing, but never once kitchy. Even for someone who might not be into jazz or brass music, there was no way you couldn’t have fun during their set. Their performance was an absolute blast. It was definitely something different than a lot of what you see on stages around the Twin Cities, but that is what made it so captivating. The band and their instruments took up about the entire stage and they seemed to be having an absolute blast. A brass band might not exactly seem like the kind of music to dance and get down to, but they had the crowd dancing along through their entire set. Their energy radiated from the stage. Basically, McNasty Brass Band is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t make fun of the kid who is super into trumpet in 5th grade because who knows, he might just end up opening for Soul Asylum one day.

A stand out moment from their set was their cover of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), yes as in the hit from the 80s. Their cover was not only awesome, but it was just hilarious and totally unexpected from a brass band. Overall it was the perfect way to close out their set.

Setlist: King Sized / McNasty Boys / MF Club / Bowie / Party Bus / BF Can’t Dance / Thrillionaire / Sweet Dreams

Headlining the evening was of course Soul Asylum. For anyone at First Ave on Friday who’d never seen Soul Asylum, they picked the right show to catch. Their set was the absolute perfect mix of both new and old songs. However, from the overall vibe of the crowd it did seem like a lot of people were there to see and hear some of the Soul Asylum classics. It took the crowd a while to warm up (perhaps both literally and figuratively), but once they did it was blast. The crowd was dancing and the die hard fans were singing along to every word.

Dave Pirner and the band, which of course features Michael Bland, Winston Roye and Ryan Smith, played through their set like the seasoned pros they all are. There really is something unique about this band as a whole, that despite the changes and loss in members throughout the years, their lives shows always have a certain magic and energy to them that is distinctly and uniquely Soul Asylum. It was also of course extra special getting to catch Soul Asylum play in the city they call home, and the city where they got their start. From the overall look and feel of the crowd, it definitely seemed like there were fans who were lucky enough to see have seen Soul Asylum play First Ave many times. But the crowd was a good mix of ages, both younger and older. Which just speaks to the appeal of this band. Their sound is just timeless rock and roll and their live set has that feel. It’s 4 dudes on stage playing rock and roll – no gimmicks, no tricks – just rock and roll.

At one point during their set Pirner took a sip of his drink and raised his glass and made a toast to the late, great Karl Mueller, who was a founding member of Soul Asylum. Mueller lost his battle to cancer in 2005. In our interview with Pirner, he said he sort of thought Soul Asylum was over after Mueller’s passing, so his toast and tribute to Mueller was a particularly moving and touching moment from their set.

Again, the set was sprinkled with a mix of the classics as well as fresh new tracks of their new album Change of Fortune. Highlights of the set were Misery, Somebody to Shove and of course Runaway Train. But their new songs like Supersonic, Can’t Help It and Change of Fortune were also super fun to see live, and really highlight this new season for Soul Asylum. Fans defintely got their money’s worth on Friday. And after this show, it’s clear there is plenty more to come from Soul Asylum.

Setlist: Fearless Leader / Tied To The Tracks / Marionette / Misery / Supersonic / Can’t Help It / Doomsday / Bittersweetheart / Shove / Black Gold / Without A Trace / Cool / Change Of Fortune / When I See You / Bird On A Wire / Don’t Bother Me / Never Really Been / Runaway Train / I Will Still Be Laughing / Just Like Anyone Encore: Homesick / Something Out Of Nothing / Stand Up And Be Strong