St. Paul’s Palace Theatre was dark on Sunday when the renovated vaudeville theater quietly hit a milestone, the two-year anniversary of its opening to the public. But, in its first 24 months in business, the Palace has enjoyed a warm welcome from local live music fans and touring acts.
More than 20 groups have headlined two, or more, shows in the space. Many have been mainstays of 89.3 The Current, including Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, Pixies, Fleet Foxes, Haim and the Decemberists. At least four homegrown acts have played multiple nights there: Atmosphere, Hippo Campus, Trampled by Turtles and the collaboration between Bon Iver and TU Dance.
But the Palace has also shown some versatility, offering Chris Thile’s “Live from Here,” comic Nick Swardson, metal (Stone Sour, Steel Panther, Chevelle), mainstream country (Brothers Osborne), jam bands (Umphrey’s McGee, the String Cheese Incident) and two recent sold-out shows featuring women who blur the lines between genres, Robyn and Kacey Musgraves.
Speaking of selling out, tickets are long gone for upcoming concerts from St. Paul and the Broken Bones (March 23), Lizzo (May 5) and Tenacious D (July 30-31). (Massive Attack’s March 24 gig was sold out as well, although that tour has been postponed until the fall due an illness in the group.)
The ever-expanding First Avenue, which runs the Palace with Chicago’s Jam Productions, announced on Monday that it had officially bought the nearby Fitzgerald Theater from Minnesota Public Radio. Once the home base of Garrison Keillor and “A Prairie Home Companion,” the building has often sat largely unused beyond occasional MPR events. And now that Thile has made it clear “Live from Here” will visit the Twin Cities only a few times each season, it made sense for MPR to unload the theater.
First Avenue already looks to be experimenting with how to best use the Fitz. Space-rock band Spiritualized would typically headline First Avenue’s mainroom and doesn’t quite have the fanbase to fill the Palace. But they’re playing the Fitz on April 8, and it seems like a seated venue might be ideal for the group, which doesn’t so much rock out as zone out.
Instead of one night at the Palace, First Avenue is trying two nights at the Fitz for alt-country icons Lucinda Williams (April 13-14) and Neko Case (May 1-2) as well as indie band Lucius (May 10-11).
First Avenue does have some stiff competition coming up, with the projected spring 2020 launch of Live Nation’s new Minneapolis Fillmore Theater in Minneapolis’ North Loop. Its 2,000 capacity places it midway between First Avenue and the Palace and is likely to make competition much stiffer to book touring bands, particularly those closely aligned with Live Nation.
For now, here’s a look at the three acts — a rapper, classic rocker and gospel-tinged pop star — coming to the Palace in the next week.
Vince Staples: Long Beach, Calif., native Vince Staples was one of 2015’s most buzzed-about rappers thanks to his warmly received debut album, “Summertime ’06.” It dealt with growing up in poverty and struggling, as a young teen, with what to do with your life. That includes the temptation of joining a gang, as Staples himself did (although he has said he’s never drank or done drugs). “I don’t take nothing back,” Staples told a reporter at the time. “I just know that I got lucky.”
While he threatened to retire — “If I get some (real money) in the next six months, you’ll never see me again” — Staples returned to action in 2017 with his widely acclaimed sophomore record, “Big Fish Theory.” In November, he found a similar reception for his third effort, “FM.” Jpegmafia and Trill Sammy open (9 p.m. Saturday; $35-$32.50).
Bob Weir and Wolf Bros: In the summer of 2015, Bob Weir and the three other surviving members of the Grateful Dead made a mint playing five farewell shows with the promise it would be the last time all four of them share a stage. But that didn’t mean Weir, who is now 71, was going to retire. Instead, he formed Dead and Company with fellow Dead vets Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann and singer/songwriter John Mayer. They’ve since toured regularly and earned a warm reception from fans.
And yet that’s still not enough for Weir, who has formed a new trio, Wolf Bros, with bassist Don Was (who is best known for producing the Rolling Stones, Neil Diamond and Brian Wilson) and drummer Jay Lane (a longtime Weir bandmate). On their current tour, they’ve been playing Dead songs along with a wide array of covers from folks like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Willie Dixon, Merle Haggard and Little Feat (7 p.m. Tuesday; $289-$60).
Tori Kelly: The showbiz bug bit California native Tori Kelly at an early age. She competed on “Star Search” when she was 10 and “America’s Most Talented Kids” two years later. She signed a record deal that year that didn’t work out, so she turned to YouTube where she built a strong following with her covers and original songs. She duked it out on “American Idol” in 2010 and later signed with Justin Bieber’s manager, who landed her a contract with Capitol Records.
Her 2015 debut album, “Unbreakable Smile,” spawned a trio of gold singles in “Nobody Love,” “Should’ve Been Us” and “Hollow.” For the follow-up, last fall’s “Hiding Place,” Kelly took a turn toward contemporary Christian music. It didn’t fare well at pop radio, but did earn Kelly a pair of Grammy Awards in the gospel category. She’s currently on an acoustic tour to preview her next record, which is due out later this year (8 p.m. Thursday; $160-$35).
Minneapolis’ James Sewell Ballet has collaborated with Minneapolis multi-instrumentalist Martin Dosh on the new original work “Body Beats,” which uses Dosh’s looping techniques to play “off the neurological and physical phenomenon that occurs when distinctly different movements occur within the same dancer or musician using different parts of the body in different rhythms.”
The company will offer a free sneak preview of “Body Beats” at 10 and 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Mall of America Rotunda in a program that also includes a piece by St. Paul Ballet students. They’ll also perform selections from the piece during the Final Four from 7 to 9 a.m. April 9 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in front of French Meadow Bakery and Cafe in Terminal 1.
Tickets are priced from $35 to $20 for the full performance, which will be staged at 7:30 p.m. March 29 and 30 and 2 p.m. March 31 at the Goodale Theater at the Cowles Center in Minneapolis. The show also includes a collaboration with acclaimed New York choreographer Gabrielle Lamb. For details, see jsballet.org.