Love is the Law

On Thursday night we went to the third annual pre-New Year’s Eve show put on by The New Standards at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. The group was fresh off three sold-out holiday shows at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, and their shows at the Dakota followed form. The 7:00 p.m. show was sold out. When we left at 9:15, the atrium was full of folks waiting to get in for the second show at 9:30.
The New Standards is a three-piece acoustic group, two thirds of which is derived from legendary Twin Cities rock bands. Pianist/vocalist Chan Poling was a founder and mainstay of the Suburbs; bassist/vocalist John Munson was at the heart of Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic. Both Poling and Munson are strong vocalists, with Poling sounding like Tom Waits before he added the gravel to his voice.
When Poling and Munson decided to team up they recruited vibraphonist Steve Roehm to fill out a jazz-inflected trio. The trio covers their favorite pop and rock songs as “new standards.” Each song must be among their favorites and each arrangement must bring something new to the song. It is a very cool concept that they execute with something approaching perfection.
Introducing the show, Dakota proprietor Lowell Pickett noted that the group is making a name for itself outside the Twin Cities. They’re regulars at the legendary cabaret stage at Joe’s Pub in New York City and beloved in Europe. They have released two compact discs that are worth checking out.
The New Standards covered a lot of ground in their show on Thursday night, ranging from Little Richard (“Tutti Frutti”), the Beatles (“Michelle”) and Three Dog Night (“One,” with which they kicked off the show), to contemporary songs that were unfamiliar to me. As performed by these guys, I loved the newer songs. The newer material included “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service (beautiful), “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Crazy” by Gnarles Barkley, “Toxic” by Britney Spears, and “Hey Ya!” by OutKast.
In the video below the group performs Poling and the Suburbs’ own “Love is the Law.” They closed the first show on Thursday night with the song. It used to go like this. Now it goes like this. Don’t even try to get this one out of your head.

UPDATE: My apologies to Steve Roehm for goofing up his last name when I originally posted this, and my thanks to Matthew Wean for supplying me the titles of the contemporary songs that I thought were among the highlights of the show.


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