My Morning Jacket and Ben Harper bring big rock to ACL’s Season 42

Austin City Limits showcases two of modern rock’s best live acts: My Morning Jacket and Ben Harper.  The longtime fan favorites make return appearances armed with new material in a must-see installment as part of ACL’s Season 42.

My Morning Jacket return for the first time in nearly a decade for their third Austin City Limits appearance, highlighting songs from their last two studio albums, The Waterfall and Circuital.  The Kentucky indie-rockers, five-time Grammy Award-winners, kick off a blissed-out 4-song set with the title track to 2011’s Circuital.  Charismatic leader Jim James dazzles in a colorful kimono and big sunglasses as the band builds their signature soundscapes, including a tune from The Waterfall, a 2016 Grammy nominee for Best Alternative Album.  Their psychedelic textures expand into a glorious wall of sound for the set-closer “Victory Dance,” as the shape-shifting James prowls the stage with a towel on his head and an electronic sampler around his neck for an epic close.

Ben Harper reunites with his longtime backing band the Innocent Criminals after a seven-year hiatus for his first ACL appearance since Season 35.  Harper and crew deliver a powerful, six-song set featuring classics and new songs from 2016’s acclaimed Call It What It Is.  Opening with the ever-catchy “Steal My Kisses,” the frontman gets the crowd on its feet, then segues into soulful new gems, showcasing his trademark lap steel guitar bona fides.  The socially-charged title track from his latest release has Harper reciting the names of gone-too-soon young black men.  Harper’s show-stopping performance of the take-us-to-church gospel burner “Where Could I Go” leaves both singer and audience overcome from the power of the moment, exposing the painfully honest and self-reflective lyrics that have made Harper a fan-favorite for 20-plus years.

photo by Scott Newton

“Jim James has appeared on the ACL stage in many musical guises, as befits his wildly eclectic virtuosity,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona.  “But My Morning Jacket brings him back to ground zero where he is most at home. He’s one of the best at engaging a live audience, and it shows.  Ben Harper is another perennial favorite, always in tune with the times, his fans and his musical muse.  It’s very much like a homecoming for both of them, but more akin to two old friends coming home from long musical journeys to show us what they’ve learned.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Tune in next week for an ACL Presents special, featuring the Americana Music Festival 2016.