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The People's Celebration!
Governor Jesse Ventura's Inaugural Ball
Jonny Lang & Delbert McClinton
@ The Target Center, Minneapolis, 1/16/99
By Ray Stiles

Jesse "The Body" Ventura
Photo © 1999 by Tom Asp.
All rights reserved
Picture the wildest pep rally you ever attended while in high school and then multiply that energy and excitement by 100 fold, or better yet, just picture New Year's Eve in Times Square and you will get a pretty good idea of what a spectacle the recent Minnesota's Inaugural Ball was. With the thunderous noise, crackling fireworks, thousands of streamers and balloons, elaborate lighting effects, quickly dissipating smoke, tons of confetti, thousands of screaming fans and of course "Jesse The Body," we were treated to one spectacular exhibition of frenzied hyperbole and excess. But just because everything was a "little bit" over-the-top doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining, because it was. In fact the actual technical production of the event was pretty impressive. It was almost at if Vince McMahon and his World Wrestling Federation were producing the affair.

The doors opened a little late with thousands of, I guess you would call them "fans," being funneled or sucked into the Target Center. For the next two hours throngs of people swarmed around the all-too narrow hallways listening to nearly a dozen local musicians vying for attention among all the food vendors. It was A Taste of Minnesota, The State Fair, Wrestle Mania, a Viking pep fest and a rock concert all rolled into one show.

Inside we were able to sit and listen to a pretty good show by Delbert McClinton who can sing a ballad as good as anyone on stage today. He performed songs spanning his long career and received the biggest audience response from some of his more well known recordings including "Giving It Up For Your Love," "Have a Little Faith In Me" and "Everytime I Roll The Dice."

At 8:30 the lights dimmed and the spectacle began with a large screen video showing some footage of Ventura's campaign trail from his famous motor home. Then it cut to a live feed as the Governor's motorcade approached the Target Center along First Avenue. State Troopers and quite a few bikers, including the Viking's mascot surrounded Ventura, riding in his motor home. The cameras then followed Ventura as he moved from his vehicle into the Target Center almost like a Martin Scorsese movie -- almost. It was at this point when Jesse entered the area from the upper level that we saw him decked out in leather fringed jacket, bandana, ear rings, Hendrix T shirt and later his famed feather boa. As he took the stage he yelled out "the BODY is back, for tonight. Let's party Minnesota." Then we were blasted with a fireworks display and a confetti shower that will put any New York parade to shame.

Warren Zevon & Jesse
Photo © 1999 by Tom Asp.
All rights reserved
There was a MN DOT crew sketch and the University of Minnesota Marching Band playing the Minnesota Rouser followed by songs from The Sounds of Blackness and Bruce Henry. Some of the surprise musical guests included Tina and the B-Sides, America and Warren Zevon who was joined by the Governor for a hammed up duet on "The Werewolves of London."

Before the closing concert by Jonny Lang one of the biggest audience cheers came when Red McCombs of the Vikings was introduced -- this was the day before the "big" game -- little did we know ...

Jonny Lang
Photo © 1999 by Tom Asp.
All rights reserved
Most of the fans there were waiting for Lang who played for almost an hour and a half -- with not many in the crowd leaving early. Jonny Lang just seems to be getting better with each performance I see him at. His voice has always been captivating, his guitar playing energy driven, and his charismatic stage presence always enamoring him with his audience. He has always been one to play to the audience even though he gets totally wrapped up in his delivery. He was even able to get out in the auditorium for his usual walk-about that always draws an enthusiastic response from the audience. During the last part of his set he brought out fellow Fargo musicians the Blenders who joined him is a really great gospel number. Lang knows how to mix up his material and the slower, soul & gospel material really allows him to shine. It was clear Sam Cooke was an influence on his vocals. He finished off with a two-song encore including a tasteful acoustic number and a wired, feedback driven rocker.

This was definitely the most unique inaugural ball in Minnesota's history and I'm glad I was able to attend.

This review is copyright © 1998 by Ray Stiles, all rights reserved.

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