Cloud Cult filled Lincoln Hall with passionate, uplifting energy, harmonious acoustics and empowering lyrics on Feb. 28.
This indie rock band’s roots are in my home state of Minnesota, which is where I was originally exposed to them. What started as a single effort by singer/songwriter Craig Minowa in 1996 transformed into a collaboration with several musicians: Arlean Peiffer on drums, Shannon Frid-Rubin playing violin, Daniel Zamzow playing cello, Shawn Neary on bass and trombone, Sarah Elhardt-Perbix on keyboard and Scott West playing trumpet. Cloud Cult also incorporates visual art at its shows using interpretive painters Scott West and Connie Minowa (the lead singer’s wife).
Cloud Cult fans are familiar with the fact that its music ranges from soft acoustic melodies to roaring, energetic tracks filled with heavy guitar and electric sound effects.
The band took advantage of this contrast and split their show into two sets — they started with acoustic and ended with electric. Although they had no opener, the audience was captured by their intriguing presence from the opening song through the encore.
The acoustic set started off with “You Were Born,” off of Cloud Cult’s 2010 album Light Chasers. Starting with a song about being born was a rather symbolic way to begin the show. The audience stood in complete silence as the soft finger picking of the guitar and the violin were in perfect harmony. Minowa beautifully sang, “You were born to change this life. You were born to chase the light.”
The rest of the acoustic set followed with similar slow songs with Minowa casually talking with the audience in between. Meanwhile, the painters are delicately painting in black and white in the backdrop of the stage. The audience watched the mellow performance in awe, and seemed as if they could not divert their attention even if they tried.
Another song that captivated me in the acoustic set was “Running with the Wolves.” Lyrics such as “I’m not coming home. I’m staying with the wolves. They can burn all my mail and disconnect my phone,” were performed with intense energy that gave me a desire to run with the wolves myself.
Just before I thought that the acoustic set could not get any more passionate, it ended with Minowa calling a man and his girlfriend up on stage. After a dedicated speech, he got on one knee and proposed to her. She said yes and the audience filled the room with cheering and playful chanting.
After a 15-minute break, the show resumed with the electric set. This set added drums, electric guitar, a synthesizer and voice sound effects.
The set started with “Unexplainable Stories,” with a strong violin and cello part, while the drums and guitar created a build up. Mid-way through, the song reached a peak and exploded with electric guitar and electric sound effects while the painters spun their canvases around and splattered on color to the black and white paintings. This changed the entire energy of the performance, causing the entire audience to start jumping, screaming and dancing to the pulsing beat.
The energy within the electric set never died down, and the audience continued to move with enthusiasm. The addition of the electric guitar and the synthesizer created a playful, whimsical sound in each and every song. The performance became all the more empowering as it became louder and more “rocker” sounding.
My favorite song within the electric set was “Sleepwalker,” off of their newest album titled Love. The lyrics and the sound were in complete euphony. “We are your conscience. We thought we’d tell you, you’ve been sleepwalking through most of your days… The time’s come to get up,
before you break down. I know you’re on it,” illustrated the distinct message of the song that made it the most inspiring to me.
The electric set ended with the encore performance of “You’ll Be Bright,” which was sung by all the band members on stage. I also found that this was a symbolic way to end the show with lyrics stating, “travel safely” at the end of each verse, as if they were directly talking to the audience. The performance ended with a strong, compassionate energy with the paintings, now in complete color, filling the backdrop of the stage.
Cloud Cult truly has a gift for giving a galvanizing performance. Whether the musicians are performing slower acoustic sets or highly energetic electric ones, they fill the room with positive energy.