Thomas Abban at the Dakota: Anyone Who Knows will love his show

I have been an unabashed fan of Thomas Abban since I saw him perform at the Turf Club in 2017. I have interviewed him via zoom and via email. Early days, I saw a passionate fragility that over the years gave way to guarded mystique. He is a consummate showman. His show at the Dakota on Monday night was perfectly orchestrated.

The band starts without Thomas – a full drum set, percussionist and a bass player. All three are wearing all black with white balaclavas. The room is dark, but their music is getting us ready. Thomas takes the take and begins by showcasing his masterful guitar skills. He’s dressed in a well-tailored suit and his signature white eye makeup. There’s also white marking his fingers, which makes to hard to not watch him play. At times, it’s tiring just to try to keep up with his chords from your supper club seat. A few songs in, he plays solo.

The songs from his latest EP, Deep Water, feel like scenes out of a movie. The emotion comes in short bursts and often cold, short bursts. He plays Getting Over Me, which is a gorgeous-sounding song. The tenderness is palpable and the perspective of being glad to watch a former love more on, is unique. Played solo, it reminds me of his early fragility owned and made a strength that few of us could own.

Eventually the whole band takes the stage again. The tempo picks up. Thomas is clearly in control, we watch him like an old school band leader. Could be Desi Arnaz counting off drum beats, or nodding to his performers. And they are good. I wanted to push the table away and dance. The vibe had gone from torch songs to a very modern loosely interpreted samba or hip hop. One of the final songs was High Moon, off his last album The Spiritualizer. It built like a rock opera. Masterful. Then the denouement of a few songs that felt like they were a bonus just for us. Just for the members of that audience at that time. It felt special.

And I’ve saved my favorite moment for last. You can tell a lot about an artist by the songs they choose to cover. I heard the first notes of Anyone Who Knows What Love is, a mid-1960’s hit for Irma Thomas, written by Jeannie Seely and Randy Newman. I was hopeful and delighted to hear it continue. It is a gut punch of a song. Thomas’ rendition did not hold back. He stripped it down to just his voice and the guitar. Thomas conveys the history, the sincerity, the romance. For me, it’s that edge of authenticity and anxiety that is both scary and (when it works out) the reward we strive to find – in love and art and living. And anyone who knows … will understand.


  1. The lack of attention by bream/reimenschneider for this artist is sickening. He’s the best artist I’ve seen in mpls living here the past 22 years.


  2. Hi Ann, thank you so much for this review! I have a question: Do you know what the opening song they played was? I tried to look it up but based on the lyrics I wrote down haven’t found it yet. Would love to listen to it more!


    1. I asked Thomas. Here’s the response – makes sense that you couldn’t find it now!

      A lot of the Dakota set was unreleased material, including the first one. I’m hoping to get that one out someday under the title “moons in her eyes’ or “daily walking”


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