Reviews: ACL Fest 2011 Saturday - Stevie Wonder, TV on the Radio, Cut Copy, Iron and Wine, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Aloe Blacc and the Grand SchemeWords by Andy Pareti
Photos by Gary Miller, Randy Cremean and Jim Bennett
Aloe Blacc & the Grand Scheme:
Aloe Blacc opened up the second day of ACL with a set that made up for a lack of originality with genuine soul and passion, culminating in a sing-a-long for the band’s hit song, “I Need a Dollar”. Blacc’s voice was the driving force behind the band, sort of a mix between the soothing sound of Marvin Gaye and the cockiness of Black Joe Lewis. Song-wise, his soul/R&B fusion is pretty standard stuff, but the adept horn section gave the set a sharpened edge, sometimes recalling the abrasive beats of Antibalas.
J. Roddy Walston & the Business:
Another band that lacks in the originality department, Walston and his Business made the audience forget they were really listening to reworkings of countless 50s and 60s rock and roll staples by seriously turning up the heat with a breakneck pace and a cohesiveness that pumped and churned like a machine built to shake hips. Don’t dismiss these guys as Black Crowes clones – they performed like a group possessed by the ghosts of rock and roll past, Walston’s voice blasting out of his throat with just the right amount of grit. They let their love of the golden age of rock come right out front and center when they tackled Little Richard’s classic, “Lucille”.
Iron & Wine:
Just as the clouds started to roll in and the first droplets of rain hit the parched Austin dirt, Samuel Beam led an almost comically-large group of musicians on stage for Iron & Wine’s performance. Heavily loaded with cuts off his delightfully odd latest album, Kiss Each Other Clean, Beam and his parade of instrumentalists splashed their sound against the crowd’s palette like a series of wine tastings, moving from the subterranean “Rabbit Will Run” to the Big Easy ode, “Big Burned Hand”, to the proggy “Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me”. Possibly taking a page from Connor Oberst’s book, Beam is another folk singer who is enjoying a genre-bending musical renaissance, pulling a happy audience along for the ride.
This band is a real treat to enjoy live. Nestled onto a stage decorated in plant life and vegetation, the Australian electropop foursome Cut Copy orchestrated possibly the most enthusiastic crowd-dancing of the entire festival. Unapologetically dancey without straying too far from a guitar rock foundation, Cut Copy’s show had all the best qualities of a live DJ set and a live rock band, without the pitfalls of either. Dan Whitford’s vocals were inspiring – astonishingly reminiscent of Yeasayer’s Chris Keating, in fact – and the band struck all the right nerves to get the crowd moving, whether it be the Talking Heads-ian “Take Me Over”, the 90s house throwback “Lights & Music” or the jungle romp of “Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution”.
TV on the Radio:
Those of you who have already seen TV on the Radio live know the ability they have to pound your little pea brains into pleasure center mush. Unfortunately, listening to TV on the Radio at ACL was one of the more frustrating concert experiences I’ve had in recent years, for no other reason than because I was too far away to enjoy it. As crowds bum-rushed the Bud Light stage in anticipation of Stevie Wonder, I made the decision to camp out in a good spot for him, thus reducing the beats of “Caffeinated Consciousness” and “Second Song” to barely recognizable, tantalizing teases – such are the pitfalls of music festivals. I promise to make up for it next time.
On the other hand, my decision to get to Wonder’s stage early may have been a pivotal choice in the long run, as the living legend’s set will be remembered by many not for his marvelous performance, but for the severe sound problems that rendered the show nearly unlistenable for many that were farther back than I. Even from my vantage point, the surrounding chatter often overpowered Wonder’s banter, but when the band exploded into classics like “Higher Ground”, “Living in the City”, and Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”, I heard nothing but the blaring horns, the keyboard hooks that dripped with sex, and Wonder’s fabulous voice, which sounded astonishingly identical to studio cuts that are thirty or forty years old. “Superstition” was a near out-of-body experience, and when Wonder laid out on his back for a keytar solo – a goofy grin pasted on his face – it was abundantly clear how and why this man is a living icon.