Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters tape new show for the ages

photo by Scott Newton

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters are a class act. Few rockers of Plant’s generation have matured as well and kept as open a musical mind as he has, as evidenced by the eclectic material he’s recorded in the decades since Led Zeppelin ceased, as well as the diverse skills of his multi-cultural band. The last time Plant appeared on ACL in 2002, he gave us a show for the ages that’s still talked about and referenced. Fourteen years later, he and his six-piece band (a variation on the one that accompanied him last time) did it again, this time livestreamed for fans everywhere.

Plant grabbed the audience by the heart immediately by playing a recording of the song “Twine Time” in tribute to Austin’s late blues/soul/jazz DJ Paul Ray. He and the Shifters then launched into his former band’s “The Lemon Song,” re-imagined as a shuffle that emphasizes the classic blues lyrics Zep borrowed when it was first recorded. Sending a clear signal that he wasn’t living in the past, he followed up with the spacy, bendir-and-eBow-enhanced anthem “Rainbow,” from his most recent album Lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar. Then it was back to the Zep catalog for the immortal “Black Dog,” given a roiling tempo, electronic frosting, an extended coda featuring Gambian musician Juldeh Camera’s ritti (a West African bowed instrument) and enthusiastic call and response from the crowd. Plant then Roared back with the groovy powerhouse “Turn It Up,” a song he explained was inspired by his years living in Austin.

Plant followed that slice of modern rock by taking on Howlin’ Wolf’s classic “Spoonful,” giving it a crawling Afro-psychedelic makeover and a duet between Camara’s ritti and guitarist Justin Adams’ tehardant, a West African lute. He then revisited one of his earliest solo hits, the atmospheric, incomparable “In the Mood,” given an acoustic guitar/banjo/piano reading here. Plant went back to the well of the mighty Wolf, taking the heavy blues “No Place to Go” (AKA “How Many More Years”) into spacier, more exotic territory thanks to Camara’s bowing and keyboardist John Baggot’s exotic sounds. He continued his trip through the past by seguing directly into the classic “Dazed and Confused” and following it with that band’s mighty rearrangement of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” – both staples of Zeppelin’s repertoire. “Can you feel it?” Plant asked, and the answer was a definite affirmative, with “Babe” earning a standing ovation.      .

Plant and the Shifters stayed with music history, but given a 21st century update: the Ralph Stanley-popularized folk song “Little Maggie” became a droning worldbeat tour-de-force, while Bukka White’s “Fixin’ to Die” became the freight-train rhythmed anthem they performed the last time they were here. The main set crashed to a close as Plant and the Shifters gave the audience a treat, running Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You” into the titanic “Whole Lotta Love,” which itself incorporated an Africanized “Hey Bo Diddley.” The audience sang the chorus back to them in ecstasy.

There was no way that didn’t leave us hungry for more, of course, and the band soon returned. First up for the encore was a redo of “Rainbow.” Then the Shifters and Plant essayed a brooding version of the traditional gospel blues “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” which Plant recorded for Band of Joy. Plant and the Shifters left us with a major crowdpleaser: the “old English folk song” most of us know as the immortal “Rock and Roll,” taken into a new, groovy place via Baggot’s keyboards, Camara’s ritti and some more audience call-and-response. Plant and the Shifters took a well-deserved bow to a standing ovation. It was a sensational show from a music giant never content to rest on his laurels, and we can’t wait for you to see the broadcast episode when it airs this fall as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.

Iggy Pop’s raucous performance opens Season 42 taping season

photo by Scott Newton

There’s no one in rock & roll like Iggy Pop, and we jumped at the chance to present the proto-punk pioneer on the tour for his latest album Post Pop Depression. The new LP – released at the end of this week – also features our old pals Josh Homme, who’s appeared before leading Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures, and Dean Fertita, who’s been our guest with Queens and the Raconteurs, joined onstage by Queens guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and indie rock sessioneer Matt Sweeney. With a setlist drawn not only from Depression, but its 1977 spiritual kindred The Idiot and Lust For Life, this raucous performance was a mix of old friends and new.

Following a pre-recorded Indian chant, the band, dressed in red smoking jackets, came out swinging with a blazing “Lust For Life,” its unselfconscious leader a ball of energy from the moment he stepped forward to a standing ovation. From that potent hit Iggy moved into the creeping “Sister Midnight,” one of the highlights of The Idiot. Jacket off and chest bare, Iggy thanked the audience for coming, before launching into the brooding “American Valhalla” from the new LP, sounding as if it was recorded at the same time as his classic 70s albums. The volume and power amped back up for Lust deep cut “Sixteen.” That song went right into Depression’s slinky “In the Lobby,” which found Iggy joining the audience, as is his wont. Remarkably, he stayed at the mic for a powerhouse “Some Weird Sin,” channeling his energy into a monster vocal. The groovy “Funtime” followed,with Homme taking the vocal sung by Iggy’s late friend and co-writer David Bowie on the original.  

“Turn all the lights on, I wanna see,” Iggy demanded so he could greet the crowd. Then he was off celebrating “Tonight,” an exceptionally poppy Lust tune that featured a tasty Homme guitar solo. After a monologue about having a job, no matter what is, he rejoined the audience for new song “Sunday,” a chugging pop rocker driven by a danceable groove and a pair of 12-string guitars. The band stayed with Depression for the slow, gnarly “German Days,” before revisiting The Idiot for the even slower and more metallic “Mass Production.” Iggy then took a seat (briefly) as the groove moved into hipswinging territory for The Idiot’s classic “Nightclubbing,” a sarcastic swipe at disco culture that boasted some incendiary Homme solos. A chunky guitar riff announced the arrival of “The Passenger,” another acknowledged classic and an opportunity for the audience to sing along with its “la la” chorus. Iggy and company finished the main set with “China Girl,” a passionate cut from The Idiot made famous in the 80s by its co-author Bowie and brought home by an extended instrumental coda.

After a break to let the audience breathe, the band came back for one of the most generous encores in our history. “Break Into Your Heart,” the first song on the new album, kicked it off, Iggy making another pilgrimage into the crowd. “This is a good one!” he said as preface to the irresistibly danceable “Fall in Love With Me,” a Lust deep cut. Then it was straight into a real surprise – the hard-rocking title track to the beloved cult film Repo Man. Iggy returned to Depression for the soon-to-be classic single “Gardenia,” a song that sounds like it could have been co-written by Bowie all those years ago. He went back to those actual years for the William Burroughs-inspired “Baby,” a song from The Idiot he sang for only the second time since he recorded it. Back to the latest album, Iggy introduced the groovy “Chocolate Drops” with a reminiscence of playing Austin’s Club Foot and the adage, “When you get to the bottom you’re near the top.”  He and the band then went straight into the epic “Paraguay,” punctuated by power chords and a cheerfully profane Iggy rant. Lust For Life’s raucous “Success” closed out the show on a celebratory note, with Iggy making his final trip into the crowd, who sang along lustily during the call-and-response chorus. The audience went wild as Iggy waved, ending the show on the same high with which it began. It was one of the most fun and memorable season opening tapings we’ve ever had, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it broadcasts this fall on PBS.

Tedeschi Trucks Band on fire for ACL debut

photo by Scott Newton

All good things come to an end, and so it is with our 41st taping season. But we went out with a flourish, courtesy of Tedeschi Trucks Band. Co-leader Susan Tedeschi is no stranger to these shores, of course, having appeared on Austin City Limits before in seasons 24 and 29. But this is the first appearance of TTB, the band she formed five years ago with husband/master guitarist Derek Trucks. Mixing new material from the forthcoming LP Let Me Get By with choice covers, many drawn from the twelve-piece’s recent tribute show to Joe Cocker’s legendary album Mad Dogs and Englishmen, TTB gave us a memorable performance that perfectly closed out the season while being streamed live around the world to an audience of thousands.

The set began with the funky “There’s a Break in the Road,” a tune originally found on Tedeschi’s solo LP Back to the River. The band then jumped into the first of the new songs – “Don’t Know What It Means” found the pair trading solos over a soulful groove, with a side of a capella singing and sax solos. With no pause, Tedeschi then put her guitar to the side in order to give full reign to her scorching voice on a cover of the Box Tops’ “The Letter,” via its rollicking arrangement from Englishmen. The group returned to Let Me Get By for “Laugh About It,” an infectious slice of soul/pop that took on the aura of a gospel revival. Dipping back into the Mad Dogs’ repertoire, TTB took Cocker’s version of the Leonard Cohen standard “Bird On a Wire” and made it their own by virtue of a sparse arrangement and a stunning Tedeschi vocal. “She is Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin’s love child,” remarked Darren Addy who was watching the livestream on our ACLTV YouTube channel.  

Eschewing classic rock nostalgia for a bit, the band gave the audience another pair of samples from Let Me Get By. The shuffling jazz/funk title track put the spotlight on keyboardist Kofi Burbridge, while the jumping “I Want More” put Motown through its jam band paces with a gentle jazz coda. The group then revisited its Grammy Award-winning debut album Revelator for the silky smooth “Midnight in Harlem,” preceded by a smoky-improvised intro that had the crowd applauding Trucks’ every lick. Having thoroughly established their prowess for original music, TTB jumped back to Mad Dogs and Englishmen for a New Orleans-influenced reinterpretation of the Ray Charles-associated R&B tune “Sticks and Stones,” sung by backup singer Mike Mattison. Mattison and Tedeschi then took on a cover of Derek & the Dominos’ “Keep On Growing,” as Trucks laid down licks that would make Eric Clapton proud.

The band then dug deep into the blues, taking Tedeschi back to her roots with a searing cover of Bobby Blue Bland’s “I Pity the Fool” – an appropriate choice, since Tedeschi shared her first ACL episode with Bland back in 1998, and one that allowed her to show off her own formidable six-string skills. Tedeschi Trucks Band ended the main set with “The Storm,” the centerpiece of second LP Made Up Mind. An extended intro gave Austin jazz king Ephraim Owens (last seen on our stage backing Mumford & Sons) plenty of space to bounce off of Trucks’ spurts of guitar, before Trucks and Tedeschi bashed out the blues-rocking main riff, the group locked into the 70s soul groove and there were solos all around. The crowd went wild – “They are on fire tonight!” enthused YouTube viewer LIZISHIELDS 1.

But of course, that wasn’t the end. As Tedeschi announced that it was their last show of the year, the band returned to the stage to close out the running themes. “Anyhow” was the final new song of the evening, and an easygoing, 70s-style soul groove it was. The show finally came to a climax with “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” the Ray Charles hit essayed by Cocker and his Mad Dogs and given new life by TTB via round robin vocal lines and a traditionalist bent to the original R&B arrangement. It was a slam-bang finish to a blazing set that both live and online audiences loved, and a fine way to bring our 41st taping season to a close. “Excellent direction,” commented YouTube viewer Stu Levitan. “Whole production excellent!” We can’t wait for you to see this performance when it airs as a full-hour episode on February 13th, 2016 on your local PBS station.

Heartless Bastards return to ACL stage

photo by Scott Newton

Austin’s own Heartless Bastards first appeared on ACL in Season 35, showcasing the band’s critically-acclaimed first trio of LPs. For Erika Wennerstrom and company’s return to our stage, the group elected not to repeat itself, instead giving us a rocking program dedicated to its most recent albums Arrow and this year’s Restless Ones, in a taping that was streamed live around the world.

The band began with “Gates of Dawn,” a midtempo folk rocker with a perfect mix of acoustic and electric guitars.The propulsive “Got to Have Rock and Roll” followed, its title a hint of what was to come. Wennerstrom put her guitar down for “Wind Up Bird,” the ambitious opener of Restless Ones, title inspired by Haruki Murakami’s novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and featuring bird-like arm gestures buttressing the song’s lyrics. Wennerstrom donned her Les Paul for “Black Cloud,” pushing the song hard into the rock zone without coming close to bombast.   

Wennerstrom paused to reminisce about the last time the Bastards taped the show in 2009, before launching into “Journey,” a Restless tune inspired by author Dan Eldon’s The Journey is the Destination. The gentle “Pocket Full of Thirst” smoothed out the mood, as did the cosmic folk-pop of “The Fool” and the 70s-style country rock of “Skin and Bone.” The band stayed in the same vein for the lovely “Hi Line,” a different take on a song they did for a film soundtrack. The volume went back up, though, for the piano ‘n’ power rock stomper “Into the Light.”

After concentrating so much on Restless Ones, the Bastards shifted gears to predecessor Arrow for the last three songs of the main set. “Down in the Canyon” moved from heavy blues rock to something more expansive and back again for one of the show’s most poignant performances. Penultimate tune “The Arrow Killed the Beast” was soaked in the dusty atmosphere of the West Texas desert in which it was written. The groovy twang of “Only For You” brought the set to a crowd-pleasing close.

The band took advantage of the opportunity of the encore to re-do “Wind Up Bird” and “Black Cloud.” Remakes over, the Bastards treated the audience to the straightforward rock of “Parted Ways” before ending the show with the dreamy, enigmatic “Tristessa,” Wennerstrom alone onstage singing against looped feedback. The rest of the band rejoined her for a bow, and this remarkable show was brought to a close. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs in January as part of our Season 41 on your local PBS station.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats’ explosive debut

photo by Scott Newton

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats seemingly exploded onto the scene with the infectious gospel-charged hit “S.O.B.” While the tune’s quick rise in popularity belies the Denver-based Rateliff’s years of hard work, it’s only the tip of the iceberg for this talented band. For its debut ACL taping, Stax/Volt met singer/songwriter craft for a searing set of tunes guaranteed to make your body move.

The seven-piece Night Sweats took the stage first, using horns and Hammond organ to establish an old-fashioned 60s R&B groove. Rateliff followed, donned his Telecaster and launched into “I Need Never Get Old,” a rousing mixture of pleading and obstinance. “Intro” delved deeper into that Southern soul groove, showcasing the band and Rateliff’s dancing skills. “Look It Here” dialed the tempo down to mid-, while still keeping the energy level high. The themes took a turn for the introspective on “I’ve Been Failing,” but the song’s self-criticism was still driven by funky grooves and a defiant “Don’t you weep/Don’t you worry” refrain. “Howling at Nothing” sounded like a couples’ swing on the dancefloor, spiced by Rateliff’s reverb-soaked guitar solo.

The band followed up with “Parlour,” a Muscle Shoals-soaked slice of soul-pop that would do Dan Penn proud. The rhythm ramped up for the rocking “Out On the Weekend,” which added a Van Morrisonesque feel to Rateliff’s gritty singing. “Mellow Out” moved back to the Sam Cooke era of soul music, while “Shake” added a late-night vibe with stinging lead guitar, juicy organ and a smoky groove. After giving a shout-out to his mom, who taught him how to dance and was present, Rateliff essayed the finger-popping “Thank You” and the rocking “Trying So Hard Not to Know.” The descending melody of “Wasting Time” gave the audience a chance to catch its breath, followed by band introductions. Then it was time for the breakout hit. The crowd immediately clapped along with the gospel fervor of “S.O.B.,” the irresistible hooks and singalong chorus raising the roof in fine style.

The band then left the stage, but the music didn’t: the audience continued “S.O.B.”’s “whoa-ohs” until the group returned. The Night Sweats joined the crowd’s groove, segueing into a soulful cover of The Band’s funky “The Shape I’m In” that garnered immediate cheers. Then it was back to “S.O.B.” for a coda highlighting the gospel call-and-response of the chorus. After that frenzy, Rateliff and the Night Sweats elected to send us out into the night via “What I Need,” an old-fashioned R&B ballad of the type that makes you want to hold your baby tight as the lights go down. It was a fitting end to the Night Sweats’ southern soul inspired show, and we’re excited for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 41 on your local PBS station.

Ms. Lauryn Hill’s magnificent soul

photo by Scott Newton

Tonight Austin City Limits welcomed a musical trailblazer – Ms. Lauryn Hill.  In a rare television appearance, Hill dazzled the capacity crowd for almost two hours with a wide range of hits from her Grammy-winning, bestselling LP The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill as well as from her time with the Fugees. The crowd, on their feet for the entire show, cheered loudly and sang along to her unique arrangements of originals and classic songs by Bob Marley, Sade, Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder.

The evening began with a stirring set from DJ Rampage who got the audience on their feet and ready to welcome Ms. Hill.  Resplendent in a blue and yellow gown,  Ms. Hill took to the stage and sat down with her acoustic guitar and eased into “Conformed to Love,” which began softly but transformed into an anthem due to the power of the band and her own impassioned singing. She followed with “Peace of Mind,” another new tune with an intricate web of vocals, flamenco-colored lead guitar from Jordan Peters and an unexpected scat/instrumental reprise. She then dipped into her 2002 MTV Unplugged album for the groovy “Mr. Intentional,” before pulling out a surprising and heartfelt cover of Sade’s devotional “Love is Stronger Than Pride.” Ms. Hill and band kept the Unplugged groove going with “War in the Mind (Freedom Time)” and “Mystery of Iniquity,” mixing jazz, folk, soul and rap into a distinctive blend all her own.

By this time, the audience was on its feet, giving as much energy back as they were receiving and Ms. Hill put her acoustic guitar away and the ensemble launched into a re-imagined take on Hill’s hit “Ex-Factor,” the band jamming hard and Hill pushing her voice into new territory. The spotlight hit her trio of backup singers, as they danced to the Latin funk rhythm of “Final Hour,” with Ms. Hill expertly speed-rapping through her verses. The energy stayed on high for “Lost Ones,” following a similar vision with the added emphasis on DJ Rampage’s scratching punctuation and Hill’s call-and-response with her singers. She then turned back the clock to the mid-90s and her work with hip-hop superstars the Fugees, taking her skills to the next level with “How Many Mics,” proving she’s one of the greatest MCs of all time. That was just a warm-up for the trilogy of hits to follow, from the booty-shaking “Fu-Gee-La” to the singalong “Ready or Not” and the silky-smooth “Killing Me Softly.” By that time, the crowd couldn’t have been any more off the chain.

Ms. Hill then shifted gears, paying tribute to the Marley family into which her children were born with a cover of Bob Marley’s “Jammin’,” which segued smoothly into Stevie Wonder’s reggae nod “Master Blaster.” She wasn’t done with the Marley repertoire, going immediately into “Is This Love” and following with “Could You Be Loved,” the third time this song has been performed on our stage in the past few years. She went from reggae to jazz, overwhelming the audience with a powerhouse version of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” which she produced and recorded for the recent Simone tribute album Nina Revisited.

After climbing that summit, Ms. Hill asked for well-deserved noise for her incredible band, and the crowd was happy to give it. Then she hit yet another peak with one of the 90s’ greatest singles. The brilliant, irresistible “Doo Wop (That Thing)” drew the band into new crescendoes and the audience into new heights of uninhibited dancing. Ms Hill left the stage in triumph, leaving everybody satiated. It was a magnificent show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs on your local PBS station.  

Kendrick Lamar’s explosive ACL debut

photo by Scott Newton

Last night Austin City Limits showcased the explosive debut of  Kendrick Lamar, the game-changing hip-hop artist, widely-acclaimed as one of the greatest rappers of his generation. The multiple Grammy Award-winning artist delivered an eclectic, electrifying 15-song set that emphasized his massively popular album To Pimp a Butterfly.

Taking the stage to a cover of Earth Wind & Fire’s classic “Can’t Hide Love,” Lamar teased the microphone before easing into the jazzy, speed-rapping “For Free.” He then launched into the bracing “Wesley’s Theory,” also the name of the crack soul band that served as his backup. “Institutionalized” served as an interlude before “Backseat Freestyle,” a trad rap track from his breakthrough good kid m.A.A.d city that garnered a big response from the crowd. Thus primed, the audience was ready for the call-and-response of the intro of “Swimming Pool (Drank),” one of his biggest hits and a clear favorite. Following a brief jam from his band, Lamar then essayed “These Walls,” his current single and a R&B-flavored treatise on denying limitations.

Lamar then borrowed a portion of his song “For Sale?” for “Lucy,” before going into “Hood Politics,” another Butterfly track that involved enthusiastic audience call-and-response. After shining a spotlight on guitarist Rob G, Lamar indulged in some biography on “Complexion.” That was just a set-up, however, for the hit “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” its chorus sung ardently by the enraptured crowd. “Money Trees” kept the vibe going, before the band segued back into “Can’t Hide Love” to give everybody a chance to catch their breaths. That chance lasted a bit longer than anticipated when a technical issue arose, but the crew got it under control and the band went back into “Can’t Find Love.” That was another set-up, however, for the energy-spewing “m.A.A.d city,” another occasion for passionate artist/audience communion.

Lamar and band followed that triumph with the rapid-fire poetics of “U,” a love song of sorts, that ended with a spotlight on the band. The rapper then freestyled about his relationship to his fans, and how that relationship affected the expression of his art on To Pimp a Butterfly. As with the “Can’t Find Love”/”m.A.A.d city” pairing earlier, however, his low-key meditation gave way to the extra-funky high-energy single: “King Kunta,” another clear crowd favorite. Lamar drank in the applause for a minute, before channeling his inner James Brown for some quick beat counts. The slow jam “Momma” came next, followed by the brief rouser “Let’s Talk About Love,” which pumped the audience up more. That was just a warm-up, however, for the Grammy-winning single “i,” a hip-hop tour-de-force built around the riff of the Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady.”

“How Much a Dollar Cost” was more intro than song, but that’s fine, as it primed the pump for “The Blacker the Berry,” another track in Lamar’s personal playlist of protest songs. That performance ended with theatergoers chanting “We gonna be alright” back at the star. That was an unmistakable cue, and Lamar rewarded the chanters with his popular single “Alright.”  With that, crowd and performer were one, taking the chant beyond the song’s length and into ACL history.  It was a hell of a show, and we can’t wait for you to see the broadcast when it airs in January as part of our Season 41 on your local PBS station.  

 

Angélique Kidjo’s danceable joy

photo by Scott Newton

It’s been awhile since Austin City Limits has hosted an African artist. We’ve done memorable shows with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Femi Kuti which have become some of our favorites, so we were ecstatic to welcome Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo to our stage. The queen of African music fulfilled our anticipation with one of the most energetic and danceable tapings in recent memory, which we livestreamed around the world.  

Kidjo’s four-piece band arrived first, clapping and cowbelling the beat of opener “Ebile,” immediately drawing the audience in by having them join in. The Benin native herself took the stage resplendent in her colorful dress, letting her powerful voice soar over the percussion and her feet dance her around the stage. “I see you’re ready for singing and dancing,” Kidjo said, “so don’t hold back.” She herself certainly didn’t, as the feet-moving groove of “Kulumbu” galvanized band and crowd, enhanced by Dominic James’ fleet-fingered guitar solo. The jazzy “Batonga” kept the rhythm burning, incorporating call-and-response and more of Kidjo’s Terpsichorian grace. She paused to give the audience a quick singing lesson, so they could join in on the flowing “Senamou,” which ended with Kidjo’s imitation of a whirling dervish. The beginning of “Malaika,” sung in Swahili, stripped things down to voice and acoustic guitar, before the rhythm section added a gently percolating groove.

Kidjo then welcomed members of Austin choir Veritas, who added backing vocals to a soulful cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” The choir remained for “Awalole,” a simmering and beautiful tune about women’s empowerment that ended with Kidjo playing a cajón. She stayed on the percussion box for the opening jam on “Shango Wa,” before retaking the microphone and kicking the song into extremely high gear. Things came down in energy, but not in intensity, as Kidjo’s passion for social justice came through in the near a cappella “Cauri,” a story of a 12-year-old girl being married against her will to a man in his fifties. The mood turned defiant and celebratory, however, with the dance party “Bomba,” featuring a bit of choreography between Kidjo, James and bassist Ben Zwerin and more call-and-response with the eager audience.

The Veritas Choir returned for the funky, infectious “Pata Pata,” a cover from the catalog of pioneering African singer Miriam Makeba with an unambiguous call to dance. The crowd, featuring members of the Austin Samba School, couldn’t resist, showering her with applause and cheers. Kidjo followed that triumph with another: “Afirika,” a celebration of the human family, took her out into the audience to make that family sing and dance with abandon. The celebration continued when she invited the crowd onstage, as many of them as could fit following the lead of the Samba School and shaking their groove things to the luminous “Tumba.” Percussionist Magatte Sow brought his talking drum to the front for a conversation between his instrument, Kidjo and any dancer willing to join them. He also engaged in call-and-response between his drum and the audience’s claps, before turning the stage back over to Kidjo so she could lead the crowded stage in dance. Kidjo left the stage to the people, the song ending in a joyous crescendo.

Amazingly, it wasn’t over. The stage cleared and Kidjo returned for a music lesson in the kind of African rhythm that’s influenced every musical form that’s come after it. The stunning “Orisha” brought the crowd to its feet and its voice, bringing the show to an incredible close and earning Kidjo and her band a standing ovation. It was an amazing night, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.