Natalia Lafourcade dazzles with ACL debut

Natalia Lafourcade isn’t a household name to a lot of Americans. A superstar in Mexico, a  2016 Grammy winner and multiple Latin Grammy Award-winner, the indie pop singer/songwriter has the goods to conquer the world outside her home, as she proved on her debut ACL taping, which was streamed live around the world.

Lafourcade and her backing quintet began with a set of songs from her latest album Hasta La Raíz, a platinum-selling, number one LP in Mexico and Grammy-winner for Best Latin Rock album here. Following a pre-taped ambient intro, “Vámonos Negrito”- sitting somewhere between romantic balladry and modern pop – kicked the show off in fine style. She followed with her acclaimed two-time Latin Grammy-winning title track, an intimate, melodic anthem about holding on to one’s roots, which showcased her sweet, airy vocals. Seguing into “Lo Que Construimos,” a jazzy pop confection featuring complementary guitar and trumpet solos, “Ya No Te Puedo Querer” moved back toward anthem territory, the breakup message of the lyrics couched in a tastefully dramatic rock arrangement. “Nunca Es Suficiente” set its lyrics of romantic disappointment to a wistful cumbia.

Lafourcade then announced a special treat – she would sing in English for the first time, just for our audience, nailing Nina Simone’s challenging ballad “Lilac Wine.” Still in tribute mode, she moved to the piano for the sweeping love song “Amore De Mis Amores,” from her tribute album to the classic Mexican singer and songwriter Agustín Lara. She went back to original material for the 70s pop of “Casa,” the title track to her bestselling 2005 album of the same name. She then reached even further back to the catchy “En El 2000,” her breakthrough radio hit and a song she explained that she’d come to hate due to constant requests for it, but now “we’re friends again.” The audience enhanced the rhythm with their own handclaps.

Lafourcade went back to Raíz for “Mi Lugar Favorito,” paying tribute to her “favorite place” with an infectious melody, a dazzling trumpet solo from Alfredo Pino, syncopated band dancing and crowd participation. Then she presented another song rendered especially for ACL – a lovely voice and guitar version of Elvis Presley’s immortal “Love Me Tender” that earned her enthusiastic applause. Her band rejoined her for the equally pretty, bossa nova-influenced gem “Para Qué Sufrir,” a clear fan favorite.

Lafourcade took a moment to express how excited she and the band were to be on our stage, which she kneeled to touch. She then moved back to her piano for the closing song “Palomas Blancas,” a grand pop ballad about being connected to the world. She and the band took well-deserved bows as the audience called out for more. Their enthusiasm was rewarded when Lafourcade and the band returned for “Estoy Lista,” a confident slice of melody-rich piano pop. It was a perfect closer to a remarkable ACL debut, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it broadcasts during Season 42 this fall on your local PBS station.