First came the icy gusts of wind, then the plummeting temperatures, and then, finally, the endless snow: Big, billowing clouds of sparkling flakes that seemed to dance over downtown Minneapolis and turn the outdoor concert series Super Bowl Live into one giant singing, swaying snow globe.
It wasn’t always easy to brave the elements, but damn if there wasn’t something downright magical about Saturday night on Nicollet Mall, when a lineup of big-name Minnesota rock acts, each of whom could easily fill First Avenue — Bob Mould, the Suburbs, the Jayhawks, and Soul Asylum — performed rapid-fire sets of their most recognizable hits and sent waves of nostalgia and camaraderie through the shivering crowd.
As with Tuesday night’s Salute to Prince, which marked the first time that Sheila E. and Morris Day shared a stage together, Saturday night’s rock showcase provided a rare opportunity to see four giants that shaped the scene in the ’80s converge at a single show. And it was something that the performers clearly relished just as much as the fans in the crowd.
“The Suburbs are next — I used to sneak in with a fake ID when I was 17 to see them at the Longhorn Bar,” Bob Mould reminisced halfway through his airtight 30-minute set. Backed by his touring bandmates Jon Wurster and Jason Narducy, Mould powered through well-known songs from throughout his career, from Sugar’s “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” to Hüsker Dü’s “Makes No Sense At All.” He also delivered one of the highlights of the night — actually, of the entire 10-day showcase — when he offered a joyful interpretation of The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song “Love is All Around” while standing just a block away from the corner where Mary made her famous opening-credits hat toss, and on the same stretch of Nicollet Mall where Hüsker Dü filmed a video for their version of the song over 30 years ago.
The Suburbs may have been the elder statesmen of the evening, but they were also the band to mix the most new material into their set, kicking off with recent singles “Turn the Radio On,” “Hey Muse,” and “Lost You on the Dance Floor.” The new songs wove seamlessly into a set of older favorites, and lead singer Chan Poling took a moment to dedicate the crowd favorite “Cows” to the people of Minnesota before getting everyone to shake their frozen limbs to the jittery “Rattle My Bones.” Somehow, the band’s full horn section managed to blast their way through the cold (seriously, all the trumpet, trombone, and sax players who somehow performed in zero-degree weather this week without fusing their mouthpieces to their lips should get some sort of special prize) and set-closer “Love is the Law” had thousands singing along.
In fact, there was at least one song in each set when everyone in attendance chimed in for a chorus or two; for the Jayhawks, it was “Blue” and “Waiting for the Sun,” and for Soul Asylum it was every song they played from Grave Dancers Union. It was in these moments that Super Bowl Live became a legitimately unifying experience; it was obvious that nearly everyone in attendance was from Minnesota, even on the night before the big game, and the fact that we were all willing the endure the cold and snow in the name of some homegrown rock ‘n’ roll was enough to make the heart swell.
As Minnesotans we tend to put up with a lot; the mayhem surrounding this week was yet another testament to that. Maybe that’s why another one of the more satisfying songs on Saturday night was Soul Asylum’s “Misery,” which Dave Pirner dedicated to the Timberwolves and the Wild. We seem to forever perceive ourselves as the underdogs, even when the whole world is turned our way for a fleeting glimpse; with their 10-day showcase, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis returned home to show us that we have plenty to be proud about too, and that it’s ok to show off what we’ve got.
Of all the messaging I’ve seen about Minnesota in the week leading up to the Super Bowl — ice fishing and hot dish, flannel and beards juxtaposed against a supposed anomaly, our musical hero Prince – it was Jam and Lewis who did the lord’s work in helping to flip that script. The way many people talk about our state, you’d think that Prince was the only person of color to ever live here, but knowledgeable Minnesota music fans know that’s far from the case. It says something powerful that Saturday night’s showcase was the only lineup out of 10 that featured predominantly white artists, and that Jam and Lewis had trouble stopping after booking only 10 dates. From Prince collaborators to gospel legends, reggae groups, and hip-hop stars, the Sounds of Blackness to the sounds of the 7th St. Entry, Jam and Lewis did an inspiring job of widening the lens and showing just how many voices contributed to the so-called Minneapolis Sound.
“You’re part of history,” Jimmy Jam said, looking genuinely gobsmacked as he greeted the crowd for a final time on Saturday night. “This is the coldest 10-day concert that has ever happened, on record. And it could only happen in Minnesota.”
“The thing is, this has never been done before,” he continued. “We asked people to come out, and bands to perform, and crews to set up stages, but we had no idea what was going to happen. We said, it could be zero degrees – and it happened. We said, it could snow! And it happened. But I’ll tell you what, there is no warmer place on earth than right here tonight with all y’all.”