The Blenders, a Minneapolis-based vocal quartet, returned to the Pantages Theatre on Friday to kick off their Christmas tour. Tim Kasper, Ryan Lance, and brothers Allan and Darren Rust are all originally from Fargo and have been singing and touring for 27 years. They launched their career by doing the college circuit, singing a cappella. They then began recording and touring with many nationally recognized musical acts.
On Friday night, the group took a moment to mention the loss of both Prince and Bobby Vee this year. Their first tour was with Vee, who they remembered as a mentor and longtime friend. Last year the Blenders were inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, joining an eclectic group of inductees that includes both Vee and Prince.
It’s clear that the Blenders have maintained a very loyal fan base, many of whom have followed them for the past two decades. The Friday night audience needed only small cues to begin wildly cheering in anticipation of what was to come, and the Blenders delivered the most rocking Christmas show I have ever seen – think “Go Tell It On the Mountain” with fist-pumps and a disco ball, and “The Little Drummer Boy” belting it out to Baby Jesus with a full drum kit.
I saw the Blenders’ Christmas show in 2011, and this was a very different selection of songs: the group members mentioned several times that their fans requested more carols. While most would lump all Christmas music into that category, a “carol” actually is defined as a popular song of religious joy. While there were traditional a cappella renditions of Christmas carols interspersed with a voice-over narration of the Nativity story, many of the songs were delivered in gospel style with full energy and musical accompaniment.
There were a few secular songs – one of which was “The Twelve Days on Christmas” with Ryan Lance performing a hilarious ballet skit during the song. They also included a couple of non-holiday songs, which created a nice balance. The Blenders will be performing at the Pantages through Sunday, Dec. 11. If you don’t get a chance to see them this year, it’s a good bet they’ll be back again.
Jean Gabler has written about music, theater, and baseball for The Tangential and the Twin Cities Daily Planet. Yes, she’s Jay Gabler’s mom.