Local Current Blog

Haley Bonar brings a rich sound to the Ordway’s new Concert Hall

Photos by Nate Ryan/MPR

The Ordway has been running at a fever pitch to celebrate their newly opened Concert Hall, hitting every genere for their 22 Days of Opening Nights—from opera to dance to youth symphonies, and for fans of The Current, on Wednesday there was a night with Haley Bonar.

Before Bonar took the stage, she invited her friend Actual Wolf to entertain the crowd with a short acoustic set. Actual Wolf is a project by Retribution Gospel Choir’s Eric Pollard, who’s played around town with a full band lately but pulled back for the Ordway show. Pollard showed up solo to play his acoustic heart-wrenching story-songs about wanting love, money, and a little understanding.

He kept the new space lively in between somber tunes by providing some witty and light-hearted stories (like how his love for Quantum Leap and a young Scott Bakula helped him write one of his songs). Pollard gracefully exited the stage after noting that everyone probably was ready to see “the girl from the pictures promoting the show” before wrapping up his set with a new song, “The Dealer.”

Haley Bonar “rocked the Ordway” gently with a configuration that maximized the beautiful new concert hall. She brought a backing trio of Janey Winterbauer, Kate Murray, and Wendy Lewis to create swirling harmonies, plus a string section. Bonar started the show off with the whole band, before sending them off stage to show off her skills as a multi-instrumentalist. She started her solo set with, she told the hushed crowd, the first song she wrote when she moved to Minnesota: “Am I Allowed.” Later, she moved to the piano to play her favorite song that she’s written, an instrumental piece called, “Leo.”   

Actual Wolf was invited back on stage to join her for a few songs (one that Eric Pollard wrote for them to sing together called, “Oh Baby You Can’t Leave,” before he moved to back her up on drums) and the rest of the band returned to the stage to fill the room with a wall of delicate beauty. A mostly tight-lipped Bonar let the songs speak for her.

The performance was beautifully crafted, with soaring vocal harmonies and the strings helped fill the spacious hall. It sounded like what a heartbreak feels like, a feeling of being broken apart and put back together quietly and slowly. It while it may not have “rocked,” the nuanced and intimate performance made the new hall feel as comfortable as home, if only for a few hours.

Set list
Last War
Better Than Me
Moon Die
Am I Allowed
Raggedy Man
Bad For You
Car Wreck
Kid October
Oh Baby You Can’t Leave Me (with Actual Wolf)
From a Cage
No Sensitive Man
Not Gonna Love You
A Piano
Candy Machine Gun
Eat For Free

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