Cover bands usually get a bad rap—unless said group is Cantus. For the fourth year in a row, Cantus, the Twin Cities-based men’s vocal ensemble, is departing from their regular routine of a capella spiritual songs to dive into the deep, soul-touching tunes of—pop music. From oldies (the Beatles’ “Something”) to teen favs of today (Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around Comes Around”), no single was overlooked for this year’s Covers concert. The result? Two weekends of sold-out shows at northeast Minneapolis’s Ritz Theater.
At last weekend’s opening night show, the crowd buzzed with excitement—perhaps due to the live band (Lee Blaske on keyboard, Dave Habedorn on percussion, Rikki Davenport on tabla/percussion, Mark Haug on sitar/guitar, and many of the vocalists showing off their guitar/bass/percussion skills); perhaps because Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was on the roster again. Regardless of the reason, peoples’ high expectations were met and then exceeded as the night wore on, each song enlisting more delighted applause than the next.
An added novelty came in the form of 1995 founding member Albert Jordan, who returned to join the regular ensemble for the concert series. (Not only did this thrill the audience, but the Cantus members as well: they repeatedly mentioned his presence on stage while introducing the songs, all the while smiling gleefully in his direction.)
Far from cheesy, Cantus lived up to their stellar reputation with the Covers concert, striking a balance between being purely entertaining and genuinely thoughtful, the latter largely thanks to the selection of a capella songs they included in the second act. In short, Cantus is a group doesn’t settle for rehashing old tunes. No, this cover band reworks classics to become updated, somehow more pure versions of themselves. Call it magic, call it inspired, or just come and see for yourself the joy that is Cantus.
(Unfortunately, the rest of the Covers shows are sold out. However, Cantus will be performing for FREE at the Lake Harriet bandshell on Sunday, June 19, at 2 p.m.)