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.  

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.

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.

Grupo Fantasma and family’s delirious groove

photo by Scott Newton

Few bands on Earth bring the party like Grupo Fantasma. The Austin-based Latin funk orchestra throws down its irresistibly danceable grooves like no other, as evidenced by a lively global fanbase that included the late genius Prince, who often jammed with the band. The music icon wasn’t Grupo’s only famous friend, however, as evidenced by this second taping for our hometown heroes. Jam-packed to the tune of twenty-two musicians with special guests, family and alter egos, the show, which we livestreamed around the world, never let up on delirious groove.

Taking the stage to enthusiastic applause, the nine-piece Grupo Fantasma kicked things off with a surprise – a cleverly salsafied take on Led Zeppelin’s groover “Immigrant Song,” with the horns subbing for Robert Plant’s iconic wail. The band then hopped into its own catalog for “Nada,” an acid-dipped cumbia that’s a highlight of its latest acclaimed album Problemas. The first of the group’s guests, Los Texmaniacs accordionist Josh Baca and former Grupo founding member Adrian Quesada arrived to add rippling squeezebox and crackling guitar to the conjunto-flavored “Esa Negra.” “Ausencia” put the rhythm back in salsa time, the groove augmented by Beto Martinez’ psychedelic guitar solo. The rubbery cumbia “Otoño” followed, as did the roiling salsa “Descarga Pura Y Dura,” with dueling trombone licks and ringmaster Jose Galeano’s skittering timbales.

Jazz/funk guru Karl Denson joined the band on stage, adding his flute to the infamous Grupo Fantasma horns for the slinky funk rock of“L.T.” With Denson still onstage, a barrage of polyrhythmic handclaps from band and crowd signaled the beginning of the ambitious, multi-faceted “Solo un Sueño,” which added Afrobeat and a Sweet Lou conga solo to the groovy stew. After that triumph, Galeano and fellow singer Kino Esparza left the stage and Quesada rejoined, allowing Grupo Fantasma to transform into its funk alter ego Brownout. In that configuration, the band laid down some serious jams. Bassist Greg Gonzalez powered the soul-inflected “Aguilas and Cobras,” as Sweet Lou rocked the congas and Martinez and Quesada their guitars. Percussionist Alex Marrero took the mic for a new song, the hard rocking “The Blade,” an outgrowth of Brownout’s well-received covers of Black Sabbath.  “You didn’t expect me to stay back there all night,” joked Marrero as he came to the front of the stage for another new Brownout tune, the free-flowing “ThingsYou Say (Denver Funk).”

Galeano and Esparza returned and the band transmuted back into Grupo Fantasma. Joined by Austin’s preeminent mariachi ensemble Mariachi Estrella, the group essayed the gorgeous “Porque,” a Spanish cover of the Beatles’ “Because.” As Estrella exited, Denson and Los Lobos saxist Steve Berlin, who produced Problemas, came on for the flute-enhanced “Cayuco.” Berlin remained, manning the keyboard for the Esparza-crooned cumbia “Roto.” Grupo then launched into the title track of Problemas, with Galeano giving dance instructions to the front row and Mark “Speedy” Gonzales laying down a powerhouse trombone solo. The high-energy salsa of “Montañozo” got hips swaying hard before running directly into the hyperspeed of “Caña Brava,” a song going all the way back to the band’s first album in 2002.

Berlin, Denson, Baca and Quesada came back for the final song, a tribute to the band’s friend and champion Prince. Galeano was at a loss for words – “There’s not much we can say. We’re just gonna play.” And so they did, 15-strong across the stage, with Denson joining in on vocals for the Purple One’s discofied early hit “Controversy.” Solos were traded all around, with the guitars going to the accordion going to the saxophone and the groove burning a hole in the stage. The crowd went appropriately nuts, yelling for more. Grupo answered the call, returning with Baca in tow for “Salsa Caliente,” a  favorite that had the audience dancing and singing along. After bringing the house down and the show to a close, Grupo Fantasma quit the stage and the lights came up. It was a marvelous show by one of Austin’s best bands, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on PBS.

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.

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.

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.

My Morning Jacket’s epic performance

photo by Scott Newton

The last time My Morning Jacket appeared on Austin City Limits, in 2008, we were still in our original studio on the UT campus. So we were thrilled to welcome the Kentucky quintet to what’s been our home stage for the past five years for its third taping and first to be streamed live around the world. Concentrating on its most recent albums Circuital and The Waterfall, the band turned in a trademark epic performance.

After some brief pre-taped intro music, the band took the stage to the folk rocking strains of “Circuital.” Resplendent in his swirled kimono and big sunglasses, leader Jim James strapped on his Gibson for the neo-classic rock anthemry of “Believe (Nobody Knows),” segueing almost immediately into the similarly-inclined but pedal steel-laced “Outta My System.” Bo Koster’s buzzing synths and a midtempo stomp powered “Spring (Among the Living),” with James and fellow axeperson Carl Broemel alternating meaty solos. The band didn’t have to tell the audience that it would slow things down, instead jumping right into the self-explanatory “Slow Slow Tune” to bring on a mellow mood. The Jacket then did something we love: debuted a new song, entitled “Throwback (When We Were Young),” and driven by dueling riffs and a singalong chorus.

Band and audience paused for breath, before James and Broemel began the fingerpicked guitar web that introduces the epic “Tropics (Erase Traces).” After that storm of guitars and fire, the group brought the mood back down with the languid, soulful “Only Memories Remain,” on which James showed off his vocal range and took a dynamic guitar solo that went from jazzy to jagged. After eight songs drawing from Circuital and The Waterfall, the band reached back to its 2003 classic It Still Moves for the crunchy “Masterplan,” six-strings a-blazing. MMJ dipped back into The WaterfalI for “In Its Infancy,” which shifted from keyboard-led grooves to powerhouse arena rock at will. The band segued immediately into It Still Moves fan favorite “I Will Sing You Songs,” ending the main set on an unhurried note that eased the audience into the break.

Returning for a generous five-song encore, James, Broemel and Koster took the stage for the lovely “Wonderful (The Way I Feel),” with bassist Tom Blankenship and drummer Patrick Hallahan joining halfway through to transform it from folk to country. “Get the Point” aimed for an even more mellow target, the better to clear the palette for “Victory Dance.” Donning a towel on his head and a sampler around his neck, James strolled the stage as Koster’s clavinet roiled behind him and the band built up to its proggiest crescendoes yet. A galloping Hallahan beat announced the widescreen groover “Compound Fracture,” which stretched out without zoning out. The band brought the show to a close with It Still Moves’ upbeat rocker/statement of purpose “Mahgeetah,” bringing it all home with James and Broemel’s dueling guitar solos. The audience made its appreciation known loud and long. It was a fitting end to a spectacular show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.