Minnesota State Fair 2014: The music

BY JON BREAM , Vita.mn | Updated 8/22/2014

Aretha, Jared Leto and Linkin Park play the fair — but Kid Rock gets Vita.mn’s annual seed-art cover.

Elizabeth Schreiber

And now for something completely different at the State Fair grandstand: the Queen of Soul and a rocker who just won an Oscar for his acting.

Aretha Franklin, who was ranked by Rolling Stone as the greatest rock singer ever, will make her State Fair debut, and Jared Leto, who earned a best supporting actor Oscar for portraying a transgender woman in “Dallas Buyers Club,” will bring his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, to the grandstand. Fittingly, he’ll again play a supporting role, to headlining Linkin Park.

Of course, the fair being the fair, there are some old reliables back at the grandstand, including country superstar Toby Keith, who put “Red Solo Cup” into our nomenclature, and redneck rocker/rapper/country dude Kid Rock, who holds the unofficial record for f-bombs dropped on a State Fair stage.

Here’s our preview of the grandstand lineup.


Toby Keith

Recently named by Forbes as the biggest earner in country music for the past year (his $65 million tops Taylor Swift by $1M), the Oklahoma maverick returns to the fair for “Drinks After Work,” which could be the anthem at his Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill in St. Louis Park. Rap-loving country dude Colt Ford opens. (7:30 p.m. Thu., $49-$59.)


Aretha Franklin

When she’s in the mood, the 72-year-old Detroiter can still summon that grand voice. It usually happens when she sits down at the grand piano and lets her gospel spirit take over. Her unbeatable repertoire includes “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “Think.” Opening is another Detroit institution, the Four Tops, who feature only one original member, Duke Fakir, but the same old songs, including “I Can’t Help Myself.” (7:30 p.m. Fri., $45.)


Kid Rock

Another Detroit hero, he’ll mix rock, country, hip-hop and a party attitude into an intoxicating recipe for a Saturday night. He proved his versatility last time through town, sharing a stage with Motor City icon Bob Seger. Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke open. (7:30 p.m. Sat., $51.50-$66.50.)


DigiFest Minnesota

It’s a new concept for tweens and teens: a collection of rising young acts who have made their marks on YouTube, Vine and other social media. The lineup includes a band of brothers, Before You Exit; a sisters act, Cimorelli; a Nebraska duo known as Jack and Jack, and Ryan Beatty, the 17-year-old YouTube favorite. (6:30 p.m. Sun., $20-$30).


Happy Together Tour

The irrepressible Turtles lead this annual nostaglia-inducing tour of oldies acts. Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night, showed impressive vocal power last year while Gary Lewis still has the “This Diamond Ring” spirit. The lineup includes two Detroit-launched vocalists: Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad and “American Band” fame and Mitch Ryder of Detroit Wheels and “Devil With a Blue Dress” renown. (8 p.m. Mon., $21.)


Linkin Park & Thirty Seconds to Mars

This year’s “The Hunting Party” finds Linkin Park rocking hard and aggressive like they did in the early ’00s. So don’t worry that frontman Chester Bennington is also singing with Stone Temple Pilots as a side project. In Thirty, the Leto brothers mix a little grunge, a little angst, a little electronica and a little prog rock. AFI opens. (6:30 p.m. Tue., $51-$81.)


Tim McGraw

He’s back on the radio big time with “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” a duet with wife Faith Hill. Not that McGraw has ever left the radio since he first played the State Fair in 1994 during his “Indian Outlaw” days. Expect him to preview his new album, “Sundown Heaven Town,” due Sept. 16. With newcomer Ryan Kinder. (7:30 p.m. Wed., $56-$71.)