Review and Photos by Patrick Dunn
Ana Popovic Returns to Dakota for 2-Nights of “Live to Live”
Having done most anything for a 20-year span is probably worth recognizing in some special way. Blues singer/guitarist Ana Popovic has reached this milestone as a performing musician, and in her case it’s important to understand there can be quite a range in what even a years’ worth of shows might add up to from artist to artist. Simply recognizing that Popovic named her current tour in celebration of this accomplishment “Live for Live” (she lives to perform live) is a strong indicator that her road schedule has often been on the more ambitious side compared to your average touring musician.
Making good on a rescheduled show dating back to the very beginning of the pandemic, Popovic told fans at the Dakota on January 24th (the first of two nights), “This is our first show in 2022 and we couldn’t think of a better place to start than right here in Minneapolis – this is as good as it gets.” Starting the show out with a band exclusive upbeat horn driven instrumental established great energy, and like a B.B. King performance created that extra level of anticipation for the big moment when Popovic would finally take the stage. Her entrance did not disappoint, this time around sporting a new cropped doo accented by a fashionable black Fedora. She grabbed her number one Strat and got right to work, freestyle riffing around the core progression that makes up “Ana’s Shuffle”. Keyboardist, Jeremy Thomas also found room during this opening track to cut loose on his Hammond B3, which added so much flavor to the bands already large sound.
While Popovic’s guitar playing is the shows intended focus, she also spends a considerable amount of time at the microphone and seems to use whatever feel she’s established with her vocal as a launching point to a kind of fretwork that may perfectly complement a tune or take it in a whole different direction all together. “Love You Tonight” was the first great example of this formula, where her singing led to great soloing that branched off into a fantastic extended jam where each player got a chance to take a turn and shine. Other tunes were more directly arranged to feature a particular instrument like the bass during “Train” or horns and drums on “New Coat of Paint”. The most effective use of this spotlighting happened during “Johnny Ray”, where Thomas again reached depths on the B3 that stirred the crowed into a frenzy.
My favorite part took place late in the show with a funk inspired section that kicked off with “Buthel Bop” and managed to gain momentum during “Like it On Top” and finally built to one of the evenings heaviest grooves during “Lasting Kind of Love”. The substantial 16-song set provided Popovic a diverse landscape to apply a range of feels and techniques, with a masterful choice to finally unleash her fierce slide work on “Tribe”, “How’d You Learn to Shake it Like That” and “Last Thing I Do” for an elevated conclusion to what was a fantastically worthwhile performance.
With concerts scheduled through the end of 2022 and into next year, there will be plenty of opportunities for blues fans to catch Popovic throughout the U.S. and Internationally. Make sure to keep informed on all the upcoming shows happening at the Dakota, with new content added weekly.
Can You Stand the Heat
Object of Obsession
Love You Tonight
Long Road Down
New Coat of Paint
Brand New Man
Like it on Top
Lasting Kind of Love
How’d You Learn to Shake it Like That
Last Thing I Do