Miguel brings eclectic soul to the ACL stage

Standing proudly in the vanguard of contemporary R&B artists, Miguel has garnered massive critical acclaim since his emergence in 2011. The Los Angeles native describes his eclectic sound as  “fly, funkadelic, intergalactic-hip-hop-meets-sexy-orgasmic crazy, dope shit,” and that’s a fair approximation of the sonic waves Miguel brought to the Moody Theater stage for his debut ACL taping, which we streamed live around the world.

With his four-piece band (clad all in white), Miguel took the stage in a trench coat and launched into the rocking “Criminal,” from his latest album War & Leisure. He stepped back to his breakthrough LP Kaleidoscope Dream for the equally vibrant “The Thrill” and the bouncing “How Many Drinks?,” updating classic R&B sounds for the twenty-first century. Ditching his trenchcoat, he and the band went immediately into the poppy “Banana Clip,” keeping the groove and melody flowing. After that uninterrupted salvo, Miguel paused to hail ACL and the audience, who came out in force on a Sunday night. After explaining how his bi-ethnic heritage formed his perspective and how he writes songs about his experiences on the journey to his current success, he cheekily followed with the sardonic “Do You Like…” (drugs, that is), frosting it with reggae, his soaring falsetto and a quick snippet of Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie.” Then the singer jumped all the way back to the beginning with “Sure Thing,” from his first LP All I Want is You. That set the stage for the Grammy Award-winning “Adorn,” his anthemic breakthrough hit that became a dynamic call-and-response singalong.

Miguel kept the widescreen feel going with the power chord-driven “Simple Thing,” taken from his wildly extolled third record Wildheart. Most of the band exited the stage, leaving just Miguel with guitarist Josh J. strapping on his acoustic for the stripped-down “Now,” a politically-charged tune about cultivating positivity in troubled times. “Now back to our regularly scheduled programming,” he said as the band returned. With his musicians laying down some atmosphere, Miguel talked about growing up with a foot in two different cultures and the lessons he learned from it. After instructing the audience in the song’s interactivity, he ripped into the blazing “Waves,” encouraging everyone in the house and on the web to ride their own wave. After that explosion, the only thing to do was to bring things down with the sexy ballad “Come Through and Chill.” “Nasty,” he smiled after the audience indulged in some provocative call-and-response. Miguel followed that with “Pineapple Skies,” a clear audience favorite. But that was merely a scene-setter for his current smash hit “Skywalker.” You gotta stay up!” he exhorted the eager crowd, and they did through the course of this powerhouse, show-closing anthem. The audience went nuts by the end, chanting “One more song” – to no avail, alas. Still, it was a hell of a show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.