Last updated on March 15th, 2023 at 09:35 pm
I and many others have written about the importance of hometown shows. Regardless of how popular a band has become or how far their influence spreads beyond their roots, there are few things inherently cooler than seeing a band return to where they came from.
On Saturday Night, Cory Wong and his band (sometimes affectionately dubbed “The Wongnotes”) returned to the Twin Cities for their Power Station Tour, bringing along an energetic show and the aura of champions. The show featured a high-powered opening act, a killer headlining set, and an extended guest appearance by legendary bass player Victor Wooten.
The fact that Wong’s catalog leans primarily instrumental made the opening act Trousdale an unusual fit on paper. The young group from Los Angeles relies heavily on vocal harmony and songcraft rather than the technical instrumental wizardry of the headliners. Fortunately for the audience, they were outstanding.
Trousdale’s differences served as a strength; they held the crowd captive for the entirety of their 45-minute set with their stellar vocal abilities and talent for harmony. Though the audience wasn’t familiar with much of the material, they reacted positively to the set’s climactic moments and softer sounds.
One highlight was an epic cover of the Neil Young Classic “Old Man.” Though they haven’t released their debut album (they mentioned it’s in the works), Trousdale can definitely be considered a band on the rise. If Saturday’s show is any indication, they have an exceptionally bright future ahead.
On a given night, Cory Wong is an exceptionally gifted guitarist, and his band is one of the best, tightest funk outfits in the world. On this night, they felt like that and more.
From the blistering opener “Assassin” onward, the band played as if on a deeply funky mission. Though the rhythm section is anchored by elite bassist Sonny T, the whole ensemble (including a horn section, auxiliary percussion, and more) seemed to make rhythm their mission. Wong himself was a huge part of this, with his playing focused on locked-in rhythm guitar more than rippin’ leads (though some were thrown in for good measure).
To the band’s credit, as skilled as each individual player was, each played tastefully in service of the songs they were performing, leading to stellar results. There were plenty of exciting moments throughout the early and middle parts of the set, including a sit-in by Trousdale on “Crisis,” and a 2000’s era dance medley that included “One More Time,” “Funk Soul Brother” and more.
Things would only heat up further when Victor Wooten joined the fun. Wooten, a bass legend known for his highly unique playing and his work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, was listed on the bill, so his inclusion was no surprise. But from the moment he stepped on stage, things went to another level.
Wooten’s skill and charisma are the stuff of legend, and he wasted no time showcasing them. The audience’s energy built into a fervor through several high-powered songs and dynamic Wooten solos. The set peaked on a rendition of the Flecktones’ classic “Stomping Grounds.” The song was a standout moment amidst a night filled with them, one of those genuine “you had to be there” moments.
Though the band had played like a well-oiled machine all night (as one might expect at the end of a long tour), the best part of the show was that they kept upping the ante, performance-wise.
In the spirit of letting no time go to waste, Wong and the band used the break before the encore to hold a press conference complete with a live audience Q and A, something I have never seen at a concert. It only added to what already felt like a legendary show, a triumphant return home for a band operating at the top of their game.