The spectacular and entertaining Cyndi Lauper

photo by Scott Newton

Icon, pop trailblazer, Tony Award-winning Broadway composer, Emmy-winning actress and prolific hitmaker, Cyndi Lauper has made a career of defying expectations. A musical omnivore with a thirst that’s led her to drink deeply of genres like blues, standards and country music in recent years, she brought all this and a series of lively anecdotes from throughout her three decade-career to her first-ever performance on the Austin City Limits stage, and it was as spectacular and entertaining as one could imagine.

Primed by Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” on the sound system, the crowd welcomed the band as they kicked into the rollicking “Funnel of Love,” the Wanda Jackson tune on Lauper’s latest album Detour. The singer herself strutted onstage in a black hat over hot pink hair, carrying a small suitcase and belting the song. Star and band jumped right into her bucket of hits, lighting into “She Bop,” Lauper doing call-and-response with the audience and contributing a recorder solo. She returned to Detour, explaining the genesis of this LP of country covers with a hilarious monologue that covered Nashville, Seymour Stein, Dolly Parton, Ethel Merman and a very large cockroach. A faithful cover of Ray Price’s “Heartaches By the Number” followed, with fiddle provided by Andy Burton’s synthesizer and pedal steel player Jon Graboff contributing a traditionalist solo. Then it was into “I Drove All Night,” the propulsive late 80s hit from A Night to Remember.

Lauper then stepped onto a platform on stage right shaped like a vinyl LP. Sure enough, it began to spin, serving as the perfect setting for Skeeter Davis’ show-stopping ballad “The End of the World.” She revisited her rockabilly roots with the band Blue Angel by swaggering confidently through Patsy Cline’s immortal classic “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Using a stick pony as a prop, Lauper talked about seeing both Cline and serial Westerns on TV as a child, and how it inspired her to be a singer and to discover country music. It was a lead-up to her faithful cover of Patsy Montana’s Western Swing hit “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” featuring frisky solos from Burton and guitarist Alex Nolan, harmony yodeling from Lauper and backup singer Elaine Caswell and the stick pony (which remained silent). She then went back to her own catalog for “You Don’t Know,” an anthemic shoulda-been-hit from her overlooked LP Sisters of Avalon.

Lauper revisited her breakout debut She’s So Unusual for “When You Were Mine,” Prince’s heartbreaking pop tune that she’s made her own. As drummer Sammy Merendino provided a backbeat, Lauper introduced the band, before said backbeat led into the rockin’ “Money Changes Everything,” the Brains song she took into the top 30 in 1984. That was the end of the main set, but not the end of the night. After giving the audience plenty of time to work themselves into a frenzy, the band retook the stage and started “Misty Blue,” the Bob Montgomery ballad recorded by Eddy Arnold, Ella  Fitzgerald and others. Using the handset of a prop payphone as a mic, Lauper added her name to the list of luminaries who put their stamp on the song.

As Lauper talked about watching ACL while on the road, the crew brought up a mountain dulcimer on a stand. Strumming the familiar chords of “Time After Time,” Lauper invited the audience to sing along, letting them have the song’s final note to themselves. That earned a standing ovation. The big hit followed – you know the one. Lauper started the song accompanied only by Graboff’s steel, and that first verse was all it took to make the crowd go wild. Then that familiar guitar riff kicked in, and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” brought the audience to their feet and Lauper into their midst. One massive call-and-response singalong later, the house came down and the band quit the stage. Lauper came back alone for a stunning closer: an a cappella take on her inspirational ballad “True Colors,” once again with the crowd as her backup. It was a moving performance, with a lot of tears in the audience. We can’t wait for you to see it when Cyndi Lauper’s episode airs early next year on your local PBS station.  

Giveaway: Cyndi Lauper 9/9

photo by Chapman Baehler

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Cyndi Lauper on Friday, Sept. 9th, at 8 pm at ACL Live at The Moody Theater (310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd). We will be giving away a limited number of space available passes to this taping. Enter your name and email address on the below form by 9 am on Wednesday, Sept. 7th.

Winners will be chosen at random and a photo ID will be required to pickup tickets. Winners will be notified by email. Passes are not transferable and cannot be sold. Standing may be required.  No photography, recording or cell phone use in the studio. No cameras or recording devices allowed in venue.

Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals’ run the musical gamut

photo by Scott Newton

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals staged their triumphant return to Austin City Limits supporting the brand new album Call It What It Is. Thirteen years after their first appearance in Season 29 (and seven since Harper’s last visits in Season 35 with Relentless7 and as a guest of Pearl Jam),  Harper and the six piece Criminals showcased the new LP with a diverse performance.

The band opened with the rocking “When Sex Was Dirty,” a sardonically nostalgic look back at a more repressive time. The Les Paul-wielding Harper then jumped back to the Criminals classic Burn to Shine for the blues-rocking title track. The group stuck with the same album as percussionist Leon Mobley brought out a cajon for the percolating groove of “Steal My Kisses,” augmented by crowd clapping and bassist Juan Nelson’s baritone asides. Harper took a moment to thank ACL – “it’s the most incredible music institution I know” – before moving into “Finding Our Way,” a tribute to music in a reggae style from the new album.

Settling onto a chair with his lap steel, the instrument for which he’s best known, Harper then launched into the soulful, upbeat “Shine,” adding some liquid solos. He introduced the band, including Austin’s own Jason Mozersky on guitar, before moving into the slow burning “Call It What It Is,” an explicitly political kick against the darkness. Strapping on an acoustic guitar, Harper brought on violinist Rebecca Schlappich and guitarist Kyle Crusham for a brand new, unrecorded song: the honky-tonkin’ “Bottle Wins Again.” Another reconfiguration found drummer Oliver Charles coming from behind his kit to man a set of congas, keyboardist Jason Yates on acoustic guitar and Harper himself shaking a maraca for the Latin-styled “How Dark is Gone,” enlivened an organ/guitar duel by Yates and Mozersky that drove the crowd wild.

Harper then went all the way back to There Will Be a Light, his 2004 collaboration with the Blind Boys of Alabama. Mining deep soul and gospel roots, he pulled out all the vocal stops for “Where Could I Go,” even singing part of it off- mic with little loss of power or passion. It was a show-stopping moment, and the audience loved it. Harper strapped a Telecaster on for the set-ending “Goodbye to You,” the gently melancholic closer of Call It What It Is. But the band didn’t leave it like that, returning for the title track of Harper’s 1995 second album. The funky “Fight For Your Mind” blended its defiant stance with an excerpt of Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes” and extended call-and-response solos from Nelson’s bass and Harper’s lap steel. “It really is the greatest stage in the world,” Harper said as the crowd applauded wildly. It was a fitting closer for a show that ran the gamut of Harper’s musical expression, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this coming winter on your local PBS station.

New taping: St. Paul and the Broken Bones 11/20

photo by David McClister

Austin City Limits is pleased to announce a new taping with rising soul/rock stars St. Paul and the Broken Bones on November 20.    

Formed in 2012 in Birmingham, Alabama, the sextet hits the ACL stage in support of its new album Sea of Noise. Recorded in Nashville with producer Paul Butler (Michael Kiwanuka, Devendra Banhart), the LP is a successor to the Broken Bones’ 2013 debut album Half the City, which introduced the group’s blazing mating of ‘60s soul fire – daubed with latter-day influences like Sly Stone, David Bowie, and Prince — to frontman Paul Janeway’s impassioned singing and writing. The new album witnesses a deepening and broadening of the unit’s musical reach and lyrical concerns, including strings arranged by legendary Stax Records arranger Lester Snell and words influenced by Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy. The album’s lyrical and emotional richness is heard loudly in stunning new compositions like “Burning Rome” (which Janeway describes as “a letter to God, if I could write it”) and the startling “I’ll Be Your Woman,” which knocks traditional soul music gender roles on their heads. Of the finished work, Janeway says, “Sea of Noise is not quite a full-blown concept record. It is focused in terms of subject matter – finding redemption and salvation and hope.” Hot off gigs opening for the Rolling Stones and a slot at this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, St. Paul and the Broken Bones brings their take-no-prisoners live show to our studio for what promises to be a memorable ACL debut.

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.

Hayes Carll charms crowd during second ACL appearance

photo by Scott Newton

Hayes Carll charmed the crowd last night at Austin City Limits with a strong set featuring songs from his critically acclaimed new album Lovers and Leavers. The leading candidate for inheritor of the Texas singer-songwriter tradition, Carll last graced the Austin City Limits stage in 2010. Since that time he earned a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Country Song and walked away with top honors at multiple Americana Music Awards.

Carll took the stage joined by steel guitarist Geoff Queen and drummer Mike Meadows on a treated drum kit for the sardonic “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart,” from his 2008 breakthrough Trouble in Mind. He stayed with the trio format for the “you and me, baby” love song “Love is So Easy,” a cut from the new record which really got the crowd going. He dedicated the self-explanatory “Sake of the Song” to the “lion of the songwriting world,” the late, great Guy Clark, about whom he told an amusing story concerning an attempt at co-writing. Carll returned to the subject of Lovers and Leavers for “Good While It Lasted,” as good a song about the dissolution of a relationship as any written in the past decade. The unrecorded, melancholy “Jesus and Elvis” had a local flavor, as it was inspired by the owner of the Austin bar Lala’s. He then returned to Trouble for the jaunty, good-humored “Girl Downtown,” a clear audience favorite. Carll closed the trio set with the gentle “The Magic Kid,” dedicated to his twelve-year-old son Eli who is indeed a magician.

Queen and Meadows left the stage for Carll to play “Beaumont,” another audience fave, by himself. He talked about how ACL inspired him as an aspiring songwriter as the musicians returned with bassist John Michael Schoepf and pianist Emily Gimble (last seen on our stage with Asleep at the Wheel). Gimble joined the bandleader in a duet on the country ballad “Love Don’t Let Me Down,” another tune from the latest record. Mood and tempo rose sharply on the roadhouse country of “The Lovin’ Cup,” highlighted by Queen and Gimble trading solos. Carll and co. followed with “The Love That We Need,” a catchy bit of folk rock philosophy that asserted “We got the life that we wanted, not the love that we need.” Carll and Queen picked up electric guitars for “KMAG YOYO” (“Kiss my ass, guys, you’re on your own”), a frisky country rocker that tells a fanciful tale of a young man’s tour of duty in Afghanistan gone awry. “This song has a lot of words,” he noted when he fumbled some of the lyrics, bringing the song to a premature close. Two tries later, he laughingly gave up, promising to return to the song after playing something else. That turned out to be the salutatory waltz “My Friends,” followed by the lovely “Long Way Home,” a tribute to one of those friends, since passed on. Carll closed the main set with “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long,” an old favorite from his second LP Little Rock.

The band came back for a well-deserved encore and, as promised, tried again with “KMAG YOYO.” After reciting the vexing lyric he kept stumbling over earlier, Carll romped through the song like he’d never forgotten it, to the cheers of the audience. He kept the vibe going by with the equally rough ‘n’ ready “Stomp and Holler,” bring the show to a rollicking close. It was a great way to close an excellent show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.

Giveaway: Ben Harper 9/1

photo by Danny Clinch

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals on Thursday, Sept. 1st, at 8 pm at ACL Live at The Moody Theater (310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd). We will be giving away a limited number of space available passes to this taping. Enter your name and email address on the below form by 9 am on Tuesday, August 30th.

Winners will be chosen at random and a photo ID will be required to pickup tickets. Winners will be notified by email. Passes are not transferable and cannot be sold. Standing may be required.  No photography, recording or cell phone use in the studio. No cameras or recording devices allowed in venue.

Giveaway: Hayes Carll 8/30

photo by Jacob Blickenstaff

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Hayes Carll on Tuesday, August 30th, at 8 pm at ACL Live at The Moody Theater (310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd). We will be giving away a limited number of space available passes to this taping. Enter your name and email address on the below form by 9 am on Friday, August 26th.

Winners will be chosen at random and a photo ID will be required to pickup tickets. Winners will be notified by email. Passes are not transferable and cannot be sold. Standing may be required.  No photography, recording or cell phone use in the studio. No cameras or recording devices allowed in venue.

ACL Hall of Fame 2016: ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, B.B. King’s Blues Band and Eve Monsees Added to Line-Up

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Austin City Limits proudly announces additional guests for its sold-out 2016 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Inductions & Celebration on October 12th. Two Texas natives, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and blues standout Eve Monsees, along with B.B. King’s Blues Band, the late bluesman’s touring band, join previously announced performers: Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Rodney Crowell, Gary Clark Jr. and Taj Mahal. The celebration will feature one-of- a-kind music performances and tributes, as three giants of American music are inducted into the third annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame: B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt and Kris Kristofferson. Comedy super couple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally will co-host the celebratory evening. Joining the superstar line-up will be honorees Kris Kristofferson and Bonnie Raitt, who will also perform. Sponsorships are still available.

All-star guest performers will handle induction honors in what is sure to be a historic night: ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons will induct the late, great blues titan B.B. King, and will be joined by B.B. King’s Blues Band, featuring some of the original bandmembers who performed alongside King on his infamous 1983 ACL debut. Joining the musical tribute will be current blues sensation Gary Clark Jr. and longtime friend, guitarist Eve Monsees, along with ACL Hall of Fame honorees Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt. Country music trailblazer Rodney Crowell will induct singer-songwriter icon Kris Kristofferson, and Crowell will perform in tribute joined by Willie Nelson. Gospel and soul legend Mavis Staples, appearing on stage with blues kingpin Taj Mahal and Willie Nelson, inducts the legendary Bonnie Raitt.

Lloyd Maines returns as Music Director, leading an all-star house band. In addition to being one of the most respected music producers and musicians in Texas and beyond, and an Austin City Limits Hall of Fame inductee, Maines has performed on more ACL shows than any other single musician.

The sold-out event will take place Wednesday, October 12 at ACL’s studio home, Austin’s ACL Live at The Moody Theater. Musical highlights and inductions from the ceremony will be broadcast in a special New Year’s Eve episode to air as part of ACL’s Season 42 which premieres October 1st on PBS.

The Austin City Limits Hall of Fame was established in 2014 to celebrate the legacy of legendary artists and key individuals who have played a vital part in the pioneering music series remarkable 40+ years as a music institution. The inaugural induction ceremony in 2014 honored Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Lloyd Maines, program creator Bill Arhos and Darrell Royal. 2015’s second annual ACL Hall of Fame ceremony honored Asleep at the Wheel, Loretta Lynn, Guy Clark, Flaco Jiménez and Townes Van Zandt, along with the original crew of the show’s first season in 1974-75.

ACL continues its mission of producing great television with the debut of its 42nd season October 1, 2016 featuring a special hour with music legend Paul Simon in his ACL debut. The upcoming Season 42 is filled with musical highlights, including the first-ever appearance by punk-rock forefather Iggy Pop, ACL debuts from acclaimed singer-songwriters James Bay, Rhiannon Giddens, Andra Day and Latin Grammy-winner Natalia Lafourcade and highly-anticipated return appearances from music giant Robert Plant, My Morning Jacket, Florence + The Machine, Ben Harper and Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma.

Austin City Limits and the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame are produced by KLRU-TV, Austin PBS. KLRU is a non-profit organization providing public television and educational resources to Central Texas as well as producing quality national programming. Net proceeds from the October 12 event benefit KLRU.

The 2016 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame is sponsored in part by SanDisk, Stratus Properties, Heritage Title Company of Austin, Dell and Cousins Properties.