When the announcement came some weeks ago that Annie Lennox was playing the State, I took pause. This was a show I would not miss. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing her open for Sting a few years ago at Target Center. Even Sting acted as if the billing should have been reversed. The truth was, we had paid for good seats that night to see Annie. We knew what a rare opportunity it was to see her in Minneapolis. That show will go down in my musical history books as one of my favorite performances.
Last night’s show was a different experience. The first show was a surprise. I didn’t expect her to grab my very soul the way she did. I also wasn’t sure if everyone else in the Target Center realized how special that night was—until the crowd went absolutely crazy at the end of her set.
Last night’s performance wasn’t the same. But it was lovely, engaging, and memorable nonetheless. Yes, this was a much more intimate venue. (Even Annie spoke of the beautiful venue and intimate setting.) And this time I was confident everyone there knew exactly why they were there. Before I talk about Annie, I feel compelled to talk about the audience. As one gay man I spoke to said, “I expected adult contemporary. Who knew it would be every homo in town?” Even before hearing his comment I had written in my notebook “Bohemian. Artsy. Over 40. Gay.” If you fall into one of these camps, you were probably at the show. (I should have added "Wear glasses.")
When we walked into the State the air was filled with the smell of incense. It reminded my husband and I of a Brian Ferry concert nearly twenty years ago at Northrop. We made way to our seats in the eleventh row, center stage. Annie and her band (two keyboards, a bass, drums, guitar, and two backup singers) immediately had us on our feet with “No More 'I Love You's' ” followed by “Little Bird” and “Walking on Broken Glass.” She jumped into the big hits a little too soon for me. Starting with songs that are so etched in my brain with the production behind them from her albums Diva and Medusa took some adjusting on my part.
Annie was front and center, dressed in a black, shift mini-dress with a graphic pattern of black sequins, over black denims, and low-heeled black boots. She was cool, confident, and casual, striking her theatrical poses and moving her arms in a style more modern dance than pop. Pure Annie. Behind her, a large screen played vintage Annie Lennox videos complete with all of the theatrics, drama, costumes, and makeup we’ve seen on MTV and VH1. The Diva was definitely in the house—and her audience was hanging on every note her beautiful, soulful, pure voice projected.
Annie seemed to soak up our adoration, telling us that this is the kind of audience they enjoy playing for. The first part of the seventeen-song set was the full band, followed by three Eurythmics songs performed by just Annie and her piano. She started with “Here Comes the Rain” that she led in with a commentary on our current Minneapolis weather. She followed that with “A Thousand Beautiful Things,” and the popular chic anthem “Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves.”
The band joined her again and she prompted us to all stand, though many of us had been on our feet often already. Perhaps because she knew we would no doubt be on our toes with “Sweet Dreams,” complete with Eurythmics video. (Hello, Dave Stewart, how ya been?)
Another unexpected (or should it have been?) moment was Annie’s PSA for HIV. Statistics, video, and video commentary from Annie about the troubles in Africa was followed by Annie coming to the stage to perform “Sing” (from her new album, Songs of Mass Destruction) and to talk about her recent trips to Africa and how deeply they've affected her. I felt like I was back in the eighties and the genuine concern that artists of her time were pleading from stages at that time. This audience was her audience for her music—and message.
She closed with “Why” her mega hit from Diva. Reminding us, not that she needed to, why we were all there.