Louisa Castner of Minneapolis:
1 VocalEssence, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” Conductors Philip Brunelle and G. Phillip Shoultz III showcased Minnesota-made music, with the visionary song cycle by Steve Hackman and bold new arrangements of iconic Bob Dylan tunes.
2 MinnPost Roast, State Theatre. Minnesota-flavored political sendup song and dance, with knockout spots including Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan’s duet with Rep. Jamie Long (Rep. Mike Freiberg on piano) and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s “Hamilton”-inspired rap.
3 “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Theater Latté Da. Tyler Michaels King took Hedwig into his own orbit and transformed the character into a new kind of postmodern hero. The masterful Angry Inch Band, with Jason Hansen leading on keyboards, kept the rock ’n’ roll background beat consistent and pure.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Entertainment Weekly music issue. After generally downplaying music coverage year-round, EW finally splurged on a double issue, with an intriguing range of features on Taylor Swift, George Clinton, Tame Impala, Wu-Tang Clan, Billie Eilish, Vampire Weekend, Rosalia, Carly Rae Jepsen, J. Balvin, Mavis Staples, Carrie Underwood and others.
2 Lizz Wright, the Dakota. She apologized for the melancholy set list. But the earthy contralto and her excellent band took us to church, with soulful, gospelly meditations, including a glorious treatment of Neil Young’s “Old Man” and a penetrating reading of Judy Collins’ “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.”
3 David Crosby, the Pantages. With his top-notch Sky Trails band featuring Larry Carlton-esque guitarist Jeff Pevar, Crosby carried on with warm spirit, wonderful harmonies and a winning repertoire, including such CSN(Y) classics as “Guinnevere,” “Almost Cut My Hair” and “Ohio.” He’s in good voice and a good place.