Day Two was dominated by Soul and Rhythm and Blues. The first band we saw Saturday morning was Aloe Blacc and the Grand Scheme. Aloe was like going back in time and seeing Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke. The second song he played his band took us through the various styles of James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Sam and Dave, and (ironicly) Stevie Wonder who would be the last artist of this day at ACL. Aloe Black is just fantastic. He has one of the most infectious hits out right now. Once you hear: “I need a Dollar…” it will be stuck in your head forever. The song is a big hit in England but for some reason has not gotten a lot of air play in the United States. Here’s the video:
Once again, England seems to appreciate our music first. What’s up with that? Aloe is from California. I believe he is going to be a huge artist. His debut album is called Good Things.
Next up, at the other end of the park, was another amazing band called Young the Giant. All four members of this band are from different countries. (Indian, Persian, English, and French-Canadian) Their band of rock and roll is dynamic, rhythmic and infectious. The lead singer plays the tambourine so well it becomes an integral part of their sound. The lead singer sounded like a cross between Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Hutchence. He had stage presence and a very powerful voice. They played to a huge crowd and they rocked! I highly recommend this band. It rained during their set and the rain stayed around for a couple of hours. The crowd reveled in the rain.
At this point in the day the other two people I was with split up to see different bands. I chose to see the living legend Daniel Lanois’.
Daniel Lanois is one of the most famous producers in the history of rock. He produced albums for U2, Peter Gabriel, Bod Dylan, Brian Eno, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and many others. He also has a few solo albums out I would strongly recommend. Especially For the Beauty of Wynona. His new band Black Dub features a very talented musician named Trixie Whitley. She sang lead vocal on most of the songs. For good measure she also played drums, (see the picture above) guitar, and keyboards. She had a powerful blues laced voice. The “Dub” in “Black Dub” does not refer to Dubbstep like you would think. The music was Louisiana blues laced rock and roll. They turned in a short but powerful set. Daniels guitar playing was simply brilliant.
After the Lanois set I had to walk a the way down to the end of the park where the Budweiser stage was in order to catch Allison Krauss and Union Station. The crowd was huge and by the time I got there they were a few songs into their set. They put on a beautiful blue grass show. This band is full of fantastic musicians not the least of which is Allison Krauss herself. The music was so intimate and the crowd was so large that some of the impact of the music was difficult to experience.
As the sun began to set Cee-Lo and his all woman band took the stage. His band walked out first. 6 statuesque women wearing solid red jump suits or dresses, except for the mix-master who was dressed in a solid gold jump suit. Next Cee-lo came out in a black sweat suit with red stripes down the side. All he did was put on the most intense R & B show you could ever imagine. He rocked the stage with power and presence. He was also a lot of fun. He was the perfect warm-up band before the main event of the day: The headline act of Stevie Wonder.
I feel a little foolish trying to comment or critique the performance of the musical treasure that is Stevie Wonder, but I’ve come this far so there is no turning back. As Cee-Lo was performing a steady stream of people kept coming into the Budlite stage area. By the time Stevie Wonder came on the crowd was so enormous it was almost scary. The Austin paper estimated that 70,000 saw the Stevie Wonder Set. There were probably at least another 30,00 at the other end of the park at the AMD stage to see My Morning Jacket.
Stevie played a greatest hits plus he covered a Michael Jackson song. When he came out he said “You are about to go to the school of Wonder!.” He and his band were simply wonderful. The bass player and drummers were especially great. His set included Higher Ground, Sir Duke, Living in the City, My Cherie Amore, and on and on it goes. The only thing that marred his set was his decision to be political. This is what he meant by “The School of Wonder”. He begged the audience to support Barak Obama, (I thought this would be greeted with huge applause in the most liberal city in Texas, but surprisingly there were more boo’s than cheers) he challenged people to financially support education for children, he asked people to support gun control, (from the reaction of the crowd I can only deduce that Democrats like guns as much as Republicans in Texas) he asked that the crowd not support capital punishment ( again greeted with a lot of jeers). It is disappointing to me to go see such amazing performer and feel I was at a political rally. His music saved the day but I would have enjoyed it more without the politics. There was perfect symmetry to the day as the day started with the R & B of Aloe Blacc and end with the R & B of Cee-Lo and Stevie Wonder.
Next blog up will be the third and final day of Austin City Limits.
Let me know your thoughts.