Years after releasing an album or playing to Twin Cities audiences, Dessa and her band returned to a sold-out First Avenue with plenty of stories to tell.
Only on the third stop of her current tour, Dessa displayed a balance of powerful vocals and thoughtful writing in a show that was part concert, part spoken word, and all entertainment.
The capacity crowd enthusiastically cheered her smooth entrance to “Dixon’s Girl.” And by the second song, “Decoy,” from her new album Bury the Lede, Dessa showcased her strengths as a hard-hitting rapper. In pique form on the album, she asserts:
They say that a rising tide/When it comes in/Will lift every ship/But they skipped/The bit about wildfire/How it burns every bridge/Panic tryna find/A little dry ground/Big back-ups everybody outbound/Not me/I’m like the good witch/Bring the [expletive] house down.
Musically, the band was as diverse as its lead singer dynamic. At times, there was a harp and at others, a saxophone. Consistently, the bass guitar drove the songs alongside electronic drums.
One of the highlights was the Dessa classic “Call Off Your Ghosts” with Aby Wolf on drums; a thumping pop ode to heartbreak with an unforgettable and melodic chorus.
Speaking of duets, opener Lady Midnight joined the band for “What If I’m Not Ready” as well as on later tracks. Even Dessa’s brother Max appeared, singing a portion of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey” before launching into “Twelve to One.”
Weaving all of this together was Dessa’s strength in storytelling across all mediums. For example, Dessa shared memories of childhood singing with Max and introduced a few bars from Duck Tales in a brief discussion of rhyming.
Pandemic memories came up several times. Dessa reflected on lonely walks and experiencing reverb beneath an overpass around Lake of the Isles. This led to the motivation behind her poem “How to Stage Dive,” and all the experiences of concert-going that were on pause during that time.
In the end, the almost two-hour show closed with a party, driven by the rousing “Hurricane Party” between “Fire Drills” and the encore of “5 out of 6.”
Opening the evening was a well-received Lady Midnight, delighting the crowd with a mix of past and upcoming tracks. She also got personal with the crowd, highlighted by the dedication before the powerful “Father Figure” and closing with a crowd selfie.
To paraphrase “Decoy” lyrics, when the magic’s in her, Dessa can’t miss.