Andra Day’s magnificent, soulful performance

photo by Scott Newton

Once again Austin City Limits is thrilled to host a rising star: Andra Day. The jazzy soul singer and songwriter gained a ton of attention for her inspirational, Grammy-nominated single “Rise Up” from her debut Cheers To the Fall, and hasn’t looked back since. The Spokane-born/San Diego-raised vocalist and her five-piece band gave us a magnificent performance of soulful originals and some choice covers, which we streamed live around the world.

After a taped intro of the Flamingos classic “I Only Have Eyes For You,” Day came out and the band eased into “Forever Mine,” a show-stopping ballad from Cheers To the Fall that really takes advantage of her range. Without pause, she launched into “Gold,” a peppier, defiant R&B tune that packed a powerful vocal punch and a jazz-soaked piano solo from Sir Charles Jones. Love then took a backseat to social commentary, as Day took on Nina Simone’s chillingly angry “Mississippi Goddamn,” recasting it in a more contemporary but no less incendiary style with a furious guitar solo from Dave Wood. Day introduced the next number as a song about two loves, “one of them true.” Jones gave the dramatic “Honey on Fire” a classically-influenced intro, with Day falling to one knee to let her pipes fly, and the tune segued directly into “Gin & Juice (Let Go My Hand),” a gospel-inflected ballad offering contrast to its immediate predecessor.

Before going into Kendrick Lamar’s “No Makeup,” Day explained the significance of the song to her and turned the hip-hop tune into a groovy soul number. After that groovefest, the band stripped down to Day and Jones, letting piano and voice carry a medley of “Rear View” and “Red Flags.” The band returned to pay tribute to another key Day influence on a medley of Bob Marley’s songs “Is This Love” and “Could You Be Loved,” highlighted by crazy falsetto from Jones (a R&B/gospel singer in his own right). Day then took a moment to acknowledge the terrible shooting in Orlando, Florida, which happened that very morning, and dedicated the next song to the victims. That song was “Rise Up,” her anthem about pulling power from tragedy and finding – and spreading – hope in the worst of times. The audience joined her for several choruses, turning the song from performance to communion.

The set shifted back into upbeat mode for “Mistakes,” a funky celebration of where the titular happenings can take one’s life. Day introduced her band, maestros all, and took them into “City Burns,” a soul/jazz tune that’s as consummate an example of her remarkable talents as anything she’s done. The band kept the groove going as she left the stage to wild applause, but the show wasn’t over yet. Day and her band came back with a surprise: a cover of Queen’s aggressively confident “I Want It All,” altered from its original hard rock arrangement into a slinky, pleading blues ballad – a bravura performance that made the song her own. Day left the stage blowing kisses as Wood took the band out with a burning solo. It was a fitting cap to a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.

ACL to livestream Andra Day’s 6/12 taping

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Soul sensation Andra Day makes her highly-anticipated Austin City Limits debut this June, and the performance will be livestreamed across the globe, powered by Dell.  Fans everywhere can watch the concert on June 12 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel as it happens.  

It’s been a banner year for singer and songwriter Andra Day since the release of her first album Cheers to the Fall: the debut earned two Grammy nominations including Best R&B Album, and she turned heads on this year’s Grammy broadcast with her inspirational song “Rise Up,” which she also performed at the White House.  Known for her standout live performances, Day was handpicked to open for ACL alum Leon Bridges on his global headlining tour, and she’ll be playing 2016’s biggest festivals with her own high-profile slots at Bonnaroo, Essence Festival and ACL Fest this fall.  With a vintage flair and a voice for the ages, Day proves she’s ready to take her place in the pantheon of soulful vocalists and deliver her truth to the world. Her acclaimed debut, Cheers to the Fall, produced by heavyweight soul man Raphael Saadiq, is self-described as “a biography told in the form of music,” with themes centered on truth, fearlessness, vulnerability, forgiveness and love. The Boston Globe says, “This confident, stylish pop R&B record ushers in a sophisticated vocalist who faithfully reflects past influences while remaining contemporary and relevant,” and Vibe raves, “The beauty in Andra’s art is that the message applies to all. All we need to do is listen.”

Please join us June 12th on our ACLTV YouTube channel as we welcome rising star Andra Day. The broadcast version will air as part of our upcoming Season 42 which premieres this fall on PBS.

Giveaway: Andra Day 6/12

photo by Myriam Santos

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over!

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by ANDRA DAY on Sunday, June 12th, 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, June 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.

New tapings: Grupo Fantasma and Hayes Carll

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Austin City Limits welcomes back two true Texas originals: Grupo Fantasma on June 28  & Hayes Carll on August 30.

Although Austin’s music scene changes constantly and rapidly, one band that endures and continues to evolve is the Grammy-winning Grupo Fantasma, who first appeared on ACL in Season 33 in 2007 and returned for 2015’s Hall of Fame Ceremony.  Last year marked the 15th anniversary of the powerhouse Latin funk outfit’s first show and the release of their widely-acclaimed sixth album Problemas.  Longtime favorites of music icon Prince, the band served as his on-call backing band for many years, appearing with the superstar on stages from Coachella to the Golden Globes.  Praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre, they are widely known for their energetic live shows, which NPR describes as “seamless…whenever and wherever they’re on stage.” For Problemas, the nine-piece band decided to break from their DIY tradition of self produced albums. The band approached Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, someone they knew would be a well-seasoned and sympathetic producer and, as a fan, eager to work with them. Berlin states,”I see Grupo Fantasma as a bar-setter, not just for Latin music but in popular culture. Their effortless ability to shift from being one of the finest Latin bands around to one of the baddest funk bands alive and back is a rare and beautiful thing. The record we set out to make was our effort to codify that idea, and I think we succeeded. These guys are the absolute best at what they do.” This special taping will also include performances from the band’s all-funk alter ego Brownout and founding former member Adrian Quesada.

photo by Jacob Blickenstaff

“A wry Texas troubadour with a knack for crooked grace and a clever turn of phrase” (New York Times), singer/songwriter Hayes Carll returns for his second appearance, having first graced the ACL stage in Season 36 in 2010. The recipient of two Song of the Year awards, including the Americana Music Association’s for “She Left Me For Jesus” in 2008 and American Songwriter for “Another Like You,” in 2011, the Woodlands native picked up a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Country Song via LeeAnn Womack’s recording of his “Chances Are.” All of these experiences were just the warm up, however, for Lovers and Leavers, an album Paste calls “the finest of his career.” Produced by Grammy-award winning producer and musician Joe Henry (Glen Hansard, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt), the 10-track album was recorded live over five days in L.A. during the winter of 2015. Of the album, which was partially inspired by his own life, Carll reveals, “I didn’t have one song that I knew would be a sing along or would make people dance. I felt vulnerable in a way that I hadn’t in a long time. But I got what I wanted – a record with space, nuance, and room to breathe. It felt right for my art. It felt right for my life. Lovers and Leavers isn’t funny or raucous. There are very few hoots and almost no hollers. But it is joyous, and it makes me smile.” The Austin Chronicle calls it “a startlingly personal set of songs, powerfully stripped back from the raucous, clever narratives that have been Carll’s hallmark.” Lonestar Music enthuses that the album “perfectly captures the phases and stages of falling apart, facing the truth, falling in love and facing the fear and finding one’s heart in the process,” concluding that Lovers and Leavers is “tentative, doubtful, shaky, mournful and yes, wonderstruck.

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.

Florence + the Machine’s dynamic fan-friendly lovefest

photo by Scott Newton

Since the last time they graced our stage in 2011, the UK’s unstoppable Florence + the Machine have become international superstars. In a high energy show that demonstrated dynamic leader Florence Welch’s remarkable rapport with her fans, the band gave us a taping packed with hits and cuts from their most recent, chart-topping LP How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.

Following a pre-taped musical intro, Florence walked onstage resplendent in a long, flowing white gown and barefoot, opening the show with “What the Water Gave Me,” the hit anthem from FATM’s second LP Ceremonials that went from moody to explosive as she moved from standing still before the mic to racing across the stage. Wasting neither time nor energy, the band dove right into the radio ruling monster “Ship to Wreck,” from How Blue. After imploring the audience to stand – and if already standing, to put someone on their shoulders, which a few couples did – Florence led the crowd into the dramatic “Rabbit Heart,” a gospel-like anthem that allowed to her to join the audience in jumping to the beat and bring some thrilled kids to the stage for twirls. She wasn’t done with the crowd afterward, recruiting them as her choir for the massive, Grammy-nominated hit “Shake It Out.”  

Florence returned to her latest record with “Delilah,” which started slow but quickly escalated into another of her patented pop anthems, and one which found her particularly animated as she danced freely across the stage. She then took a quick side trip with “Sweet Nothing,” the dance-flavored pop tune she delivered for British super-producer Calvin Harris. The title track of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful came next – she explained how the horn-laden pop psalm was the starting point for the album, and how it taught her to love not just one person but everyone and everything. The rapturous vibes continued with “Queen of Peace,” a twirlfest from the same LP. The music’s mood darkened a bit for “What Kind of Man,” but that doesn’t mean it didn’t rock, as the guitar and horns traded riffs and Florence cranked up her distinctive, glorious wail.

Florence ended the main set with “Spectrum,” the Ceremonials anthem that brought the audience to its highest peak yet. She left the stage afterward, but the crowd didn’t want to let her leave, of course, and they made their position clear loud and long. Sure enough, the band returned for “You’ve Got the Love,” another unabashedly feel-good widescreener that became a call-and-response anthem. After that, there was only one way to end the magical show, and that was with “Dog Days Are Over,” her breakthrough hit. It was also the moment that best showed off her powerful connection to the crowd, as they followed her in hugs, jumps and waving portions of clothing like flags. The lovefest finally ended onstage, but will continue this fall when this fantastic show airs on your local PBS station as part of our Season 42.

Guy Clark 1941-2016

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits is saddened by the passing of legendary singer/songwriter Guy Clark this morning after a long illness. Along with his compadre Townes Van Zandt, the Monahans, TX native and longtime Nashville resident wrote new rules for starkly honest songwriting. Distinctive from the West Coast confessional approach and the East Coast folk revival, the writing that came out of the  Lone Star State in the late 60s and early 70s defined a new style of songsmithery that has proven hugely influential not only on Texas music, but on what would become known as Americana. The author of inarguable classics “L.A. Freeway,” “Dublin Blues,” “The Cape,” “Heartbroke” and “Desperadoes Waiting For a Train,” Clark sat in front of a large, talented and influential class, showing everyone with a guitar and a pen how it’s done.

Clark appeared on Austin City Limits seven times, in 1977, 1982, 1983, 1990, 1998, 2000 and 2008, and was inducted into the ACL Hall of Fame in 2015 by Lyle Lovett, who said, “He is my hero. His songs have touched all of us in Texas and people around the world.”

“Call him the ‘Dean’ or ‘King’ of Texas songwriters, he was simply the best there was, and set the standard for all the others,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “If you want to know what makes Texas songwriters different, just listen to Guy Clark. He was a storyteller and a rascal with a poet’s heart. Most of the personal stories I have about him I can’t tell, but maybe someday. I doubt if there will ever be anybody else quite like him.”

May he rest in peace with his wife Susannah and his best buddy Townes in that great songwriters’ bar in the sky.

Here’s Clark singing “Depseradoes Waiting For a Train from his 1977 debut appearance:

“L.A. Freeway” from the 1983 songwriters special:

“Dublin Blues,” from the Lyle Lovett & Friends guitar pull, 2008:

Florence + the Machine 5/20

photo by Tom Beard

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Florence + the Machine on Friday, May 20th, 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 noon on Wednesday, May 18th. 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.

Paul Simon amazes with career-spanning set

photo by Scott Newton

We here at ACL have a shortlist of artists on the “At last!” list. Paul Simon has been at the top of that list for some time, so we were beyond thrilled to have the singer, songwriter and legend on our stage for his first-ever appearance. In a performance for the ages, the New York native traversed all across his astounding five-decade career, from Simon & Garfunkel classics to hits from his solo catalog to material from his highly-anticipated upcoming release Stranger to Stranger (out June 3rd).

The band took the stage in darkness, guitarists Mark Stewart and Vincent Nguini and bassist Bakithi Kumalo laying down a bubbling African groove as the nine-piece band joined in on the instrumental “Proof.” Acoustic guitar in hand and purple blazer around his shoulders, Simon entered as the brief instrumental wound down. Then a distinctive accordion riff from Austinite Joel Guzman signaled the launch into “The Boy in the Bubble,” the Graceland hit that brought African music to mainstream radio. Simon followed that bang-up open with one of his big guns: the monster hit “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” highlighted by Mick Rossi’s organ solo and crowd backing vocals. He then leapt forward to 2011 to his acclaimed album So Beautiful or So What and the percolating pop tune “Dazzling Blue.”

“I didn’t know it was a set,” Simon joked. “I thought it was the real city of Austin.” Then it was off to Louisiana for “That Was Your Mother,” the zydeco romp from Graceland. Simon then gave a quick explanation of how some songs come to be, combining a handclapped rhythm, acoustic guitar licks and prepared piano for the So Beautiful tune “Rewrite.” The band then went into a rare cover – the Bill Doggett shuffle “Honky Tonk,” which segued seamlessly into the similarly and rapturously received single “Slip Sliding Away.” He kept going with the early hit “Mother and Child Reunion,” the Jamaican lilt of which reminded us that his exploration of international grooves began long before Graceland. Stripped of complexity but no less danceable, “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” shot the show’s energy even higher than it already was, as evidenced by the audience’s wild response.

Switching to electric guitar, Simon told a story about an encounter with a brujo in the Amazon jungle as a prelude to “Spirit Voices,” from his Brazilian-inspired album The Rhythm of the Saints. He stayed with that record for the percussion-heavy radio hit “The Obvious Child.” Simon then touched on the title track of his upcoming LP, crooning over the gentle but insistent percolation of “Stranger to Stranger,” which featured a mallet hitting the inside of the piano as part of the percussion track. “It makes me feel good that you heard a new song and you liked it,” Simon commented. “Now here’s an old song.” That song was “Homeward Bound,” one of the gems from the Simon & Garfunkel catalog and one that earned him a standing ovation.

Simon stuck with the songs of his old firm for “El Condor Pasa (If I Could),” though it was used merely as an intro for “Duncan,” the Latin-tinged single from his 1972 self-titled LP that garnered much audience appreciation. Drummer James Oblon donned a lycanthropic headdress and Mark Stewart picked up a didgeridoo for the sardonic sociopolitical commentary of “The Werewolf,” on which the crowd joined him with wolf howls. Cameroon guitarist Vincent Nguini then stepped to the mic, telling a fanciful story about how Simon got the next song, the fizzy Afropop anthem “The Cool, Cool River,” which ended with a free jazz piano solo. That deliberately discordant conclusion led into one of the prettiest musical moments in the show, as Simon and band essayed the a capella intro of delightful Graceland hit “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes.” A percussion outro led directly into “You Can Call Me Al,” one of Simon’s biggest Graceland hits and most irresistible songs (and showcase for bassist Kumalo). One audience sing-and-dancealong later, the main set came to an effervescent close.

Forgoing the walk-off, Simon and band instead stayed on stage for “Wristband,” a comic commentary on backstage stardom from the forthcoming record. He then revisited the iconic Graceland one more time for the slide guitar-saturated African groove of the title tune. The crowd went nuts, but it still wasn’t over. Once again not bothering to quit the stage for the encore ritual, instead Simon eased into a gorgeous take on his standard “Still Crazy After All These Years.” He finally left the stage, but his absence was brief, as he returned solo for an elegiac “The Sound of Silence,” Simon & Garfunkel’s first hit and the song that introduced his immense talent to the wider world. A smiling Simon clapped along with the screaming crowd, taking his final bow. It was an amazing show that ACL fans will talk about for years to come, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.