Cyndi Lauper shines in ACL’s 42nd season

Austin City Limits presents an irresistible hour with the ever-entertaining Cyndi Lauper, as she performs her mega-hits alongside classic country covers from her recently released Detour, her acclaimed eleventh studio album.

The pink-haired Lauper charms one and all in a sparkling hour featuring some of her best-known songs and the story behind her current country-flavored Detour. “I know a lot of you are thinking: what does Queens, New York have to do with anything country?” says the native East Coaster as she explores her love of vintage country & western, putting her unique spin on Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love,” Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World,” Patsy Montana’s “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” and Bob Montgomery’s “Misty Blue”.  Lauper knocks out numbers from her own back catalog including a fevered version of “Money Changes Everything,” from her 1983 breakthrough She’s So Unusual, with the energetic hitmaker bopping across the stage, fueled by the enthusiastic Austin crowd. She delivers a gorgeous take on the 1984 ballad “Time After Time,” her first No. 1 hit.  Her signature anthem, the buoyant “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” turns into a riotous audience sing-a-long as the dancing Lauper proclaims from the stage, “We’re all entitled to a joyful life!”  The colorful star closes out the masterful set with a breathtaking a cappella version of her enduring—and timely—anthem, “True Colors,” extolling the virtues of diversity, with Lauper imploring the crowd to “be brave and kind—we need each other.”

photo by Scott Newton

“With Cyndi Lauper, what you see is what you get,” said longtime ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “And what you get is a totally unabashed, uninhibited, full-throated performance by one of the most unique artists in show business. Who knew she had such a perfect voice for such great country music classics? My only regret is there wasn’t time to include more of her side-splitting sense of humor.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Tune in next week for a brand new episode featuring the ACL debut of rising star Margo Price and the return of Texas favorite Hayes Carll.

Encore: Ms Lauryn Hill

Austin City Limits presents a fan-favorite encore broadcast of one of the most acclaimed episodes in ACL history.  A rare hour with hip-hop/R&B icon Ms. Lauryn Hill, which premiered in August 2016 as a preview of the PBS music series’ Season 42, will be rebroadcast this weekend (check local listings).  Music fans everywhere will have the opportunity to revisit this instant classic, a must-see Season 42 standout. The performance was Ms. Hill’s debut appearance on the series, and the episode premiered to rave reviews:

“Phenomenal…probably one of the best performances to have graced the ACL studios”

i-D Magazine

“Showstopping…Hill and her stacked band deliver an electrifying take” Rolling Stone

“One of the best in the show’s history” Hot New Hip-Hop

“Her performance makes clear why she’s one of the all-time greats…Hill and her band are on-a-dime perfect” Crave

“A masterful performance…electrifying” Stereogum

“Stunning” Vibe

“The songstress (and MC) displays her strongest gifts in one of her best performances in years” Ambrosia For Heads

“Fantastic” Slate

“Dazzling set” Consequence of Sound

“The year’s best hour of televised music” Indianapolis Star  

In a performance for the ages, the trailblazing Ms. Lauryn Hill dazzles the Austin crowd with a career-spanning  set culled from her landmark release The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and her pioneering work with the Fugees, one of the best-selling hip-hop acts in history. Opening the emotional set with her solo hit “Ex-Factor,” the multiple Grammy-winning singer and songwriter performs stunning versions of her biggest hits and fan favorites. One of the greatest MCs of all time, Hill has the crowd on their feet with the opening notes of “Fu-Gee-La” for an explosive take on the Fugees classic, weaving “Austin, I love you like no other before” into the lyric. Hill commands the stage, backed by a 12-piece band and performs a gorgeous cover of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” before closing out her unforgettable performance with the crowd-pleaser “Doo Wop (That Thing),” proving she’s still one of the most powerful artists in music today.  

photo by Scott Newton

“Every Lauryn Hill performance is special,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, “and an hour of Ms. Hill on the ACL stage is nothing less than historic. She pours her heart and soul and every ounce of energy into every minute, and it shows. There’s nobody else quite her!”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Tune in next week for a brand new episode featuring the ACL debut of the one and only Cyndi Lauper.

Celebrate the new year with ACL’s Hall of Fame 2016

Austin City Limits rings in the new year with a star-studded evening, hosted by comedy duo Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, featuring one-of-a-kind performances and collaborations from the third annual ACL Hall of Fame Inductions and Celebration. ACL royalty Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Gary Clark Jr., Rodney Crowell, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and more share the stage for one epic night to perform in honor of the newest class of inductees: Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King. This special hour, taped October 12, 2016, honors the artists who’ve helped make the award-winning TV series an American music institution.  

The special kicks off with a tribute to songwriting great Kris Kristofferson, who first appeared on the series in 1982, as Rodney Crowell honors the legend with a powerful reading of his classic “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” Willie Nelson salutes his longtime friend and collaborator with a moving version of  Kristofferson’s signature “Me and Bobby McGee.” Mavis Staples takes the stage to toast Bonnie Raitt, calling her “my sister,” and the two icons perform a spirited duet of Bob Dylan’s call for social change, “Well Well Well,” before teaming with blues legend Taj Mahal for the Raitt smash “Thing Called Love.”  ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons honors his friend and mentor B.B. King with a fiery take on the blues giant’s “You Upset Me, Baby” backed by King’s longtime band.  Blues-soul sensation Gary Clark Jr. then joins Raitt for an electrifying “The Thrill Is Gone,” as the two guitar slingers trade verses and solos on the late, great bluesman’s anthem, bringing the house down.  “I know B.B. is smiling down on us,” says Raitt.  “This one’s for him.”

The entire cast takes the ACL stage for a grand finale featuring the blues classic, “Every Day I Have The Blues,” a song B.B. King performed on his iconic 1983 Austin City Limits debut.  The celebration of music comes to an epic close complete with fireworks, and the two-dozen strong ensemble ringing in the new year with the holiday classic “Auld Lang Syne.”

photo by Scott Newton

“We created the Hall of Fame as a way to celebrate our 40th anniversary, and since then it’s really taken on a life of its own,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “The artists feel truly honored, and it gives us a chance to recognize their contributions to our legacy. And beyond that it’s a magical night of music and unique collaborations.”

Tune in this weekend for this special, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Tune in next week for an encore of our landmark episode featuring R&B superstar Ms. Lauryn Hill.

ACL Announces Complete Season 42 Broadcast Schedule

Austin City Limits announces the second half of Season 42, with seven all-new shows to begin airing New Year’s Eve as part of the program’s fourteen-episode season. Providing viewers with a front-row seat to the best in music performance for over 40 years,  the series continues the legendary run showcasing more icons, innovators and highly-anticipated debuts.  

The program returns to new episodes on Saturday, December 31 with a special broadcast, Austin City Limits Hall of Fame New Year’s Eve. Austin City Limits rings in the new year with the star-studded celebration, hosted by comedy super-couple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, featuring one-of-a-kind performances and collaborations from the 2016 ACL Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Performers include ACL royalty Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Kris Kristofferson and Gary Clark Jr.

photo by Scott Newton

The season continues with hip-hop/R&B trailblazer Ms. Lauryn Hill in a towering performance that previewed this summer to critical acclaim. Hitmaker Cyndi Lauper debuts on the ACL stage in an entertaining hour of classic hit songs and the stories behind them. The extended line-up features Nashville rebels Margo Price and Hayes Carll in a powerhouse double-bill that forecasts country’s future. Indie rockers Band of Horses return for their second appearance, sharing an episode with Americana breakout singer/songwriter Parker Millsap. Gospel legend CeCe Winans shines in a stunning ACL debut, paired with acclaimed soul sensations St. Paul & The Broken Bones. The season finale features U.K. alt.rock phenom Foals and the fifth appearance by rock troubadour Alejandro Escovedo, who first-appeared on the series in 1983 and is joined by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.

“The secret to becoming the longest-running music series in television history is to capture one-of-a-kind performances from legendary artists and newcomers alike, and share them with an audience of diehard music fans everywhere,” said long-time executive producer Terry Lickona. “As usual, Season 42 wraps up with a little something for everybody, from megastars and legends to indie originals, and with a nod to our rich past.”

Season 42 | 2017 Broadcast Schedule

December 31 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame New Year’s Eve

January 7 Ms. Lauryn Hill

January 14 Cyndi Lauper

January 21 Margo Price | Hayes Carll

January 28 Band of Horses | Parker Millsap

February 4 CeCe Winans | St. Paul & The Broken Bones

February 11 Foals | Alejandro Escovedo

photo by Scott Newton

ACL’s Season 42 premiered in October with unforgettable performances from Iggy Pop, Paul Simon, Robert Plant, Florence + The Machine, My Morning Jacket, Rhiannon Giddens, Andra Day, Ben Harper, James Bay, Grupo Fantasma and more. The award-winning series will continue to broadcast fan-favorite encore episodes through the end of 2016. In what has become an ACL holiday tradition, the program will encore Tom Waits’ legendary December 1978 performance, one of the most requested episodes in ACL’s 40+ year archive. Tune-in on December 24th to see this classic Christmas episode.

ACL artists at the 2017 Grammys

Austin City Limits congratulates all the nominees for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. We’d like to give special recognition to the nominees who have appeared on ACL. Congratulations to Sturgill Simpson, whose latest LP A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is nominated for the top honor of Album of the Year, as well as Best Country Album; Iggy Pop, nominated for Best Alternative Music Album for Post Pop Depression, an album given its first full live airing on our show this season; Radiohead, who have nominations for both Best Rock Song and Best Alternative Music Album; Rhiannon Giddens, who gets nods for both Best Folk Album and Best Americana Roots Performance; Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban, who go head to head for Best Country Performance and Best Country Song (Urban also has a Best Country Album nod); the Avett Brothers, nominated for Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Performance; and Austin’s own Sarah Jarosz, nominated for Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Performance. Congratulation also to both Steve Martin and Cyndi Lauper, who are both nominated in the Best Musical Theater Album category for their scores for Bright Star and Kinky Boots, respectively, which may be a first for us. And we’d like to send a special congratulations to Alabama Shakes, who not only garnered a Best Rock Performance nod for “Joe,” but did it with a track recorded on our stage:

Congratulations also to the following ACL performers who nabbed nominations: Willie Nelson, Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Dolly Parton, Tim McGraw, Loretta Lynn, Jesse & Joy, Blind Boys of Alabama, William Bell, Robbie Fulks, Jack White, Vince Gill, Kris Kristofferson, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Elvis Costello, Trey Anastasio, Andrew Bird, Bonnie Raitt, Leon Bridges and Coldplay. A full list of nominations can be found here.

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards will telecast on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017.

Alejandro Escovedo rocks ACL Season 42 to a close

When we wrap production of a season of Austin City Limits, it’s always nice to do it with an old friend – in this case, singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, a beloved staple of the Austin music scene since the early 80s and four-time ACL champ.  Joining fans around the world via our livestream, Escovedo hit our stage for a rockin’ show in support of his highly acclaimed new album Burn Something Beautiful.

He was joined for the occasion by the album’s stellar band: guitarist Peter Buck (R.E.M., season 34), bassist Scott McCaughey (R.E.M., The Minus 5), lead guitarist Kurt Bloch (the Fastbacks), drummer John Moen (the Decemberists, seasons 33 and 37) and singer Kelly Hogan (Neko Case, seasons 29 and 39), as well as his stalwart harmony singer Karla Manzur.  Performing nearly the entire album, Escovedo and company brought a perfect end to Season 42.

The three-guitar army blazing at full force, the band hit the stage with “Heartbeat Smile,” the kind of neo-classic rocker Escovedo is so good at. He followed with the more wistful “Sunday Morning Feeling,” which still encouraged waving lighters. Escovedo slowed things down literally and figuratively with “I Don’t Want to Play Guitar Anymore,” a contemplation of mortality and retirement that never felt sad. The blood pumped again via the brash “Beauty of Your Smile,” Bloch and McCaughey pogoing during the verses, before the band roared into the thumping Escovedo hit “Castanets,” highlighted by a fiery Bloch solo.

After band introductions, Escovedo donned his acoustic guitar for a pair of ballads, beginning with the lovely “Suit of Lights,” featuring Hogan’s dulcet tones on one verse. “Sensitive Boys,” Escovedo’s tribute to the folks who make rock & roll their world, kept the mellow but soulful vibe going, as did the midtempo “Farewell to the Good Times,” another look at the aging rock star life. Dedicated to the late U.K.-to-Austin expatriates Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagen, “Beauty and the Buzz” scanned wistful, reflective and beautiful.

Switching out his acoustic for his electric, Escovedo and band brought a party vibe to the rock with “Shave the Cat,” keeping the volume up for the rolling, dreamy “Johnny Volume” and its gnarly Bloch leads. The main set ended with a one-two punch: the thumping “Luna De Miel” and the anthemic “Horizontal,” which brought the proceedings to a close with a howl of feedback. Unsurprisingly, the crowd went wild.

Escovedo and the band returned, welcoming the Burn Something Beautiful Girls Choir to the stage. McCaughey took to the piano and Buck the ebow for the shimmering ballad “Thought I’d Let You Know,” featuring a free jazz piano solo. Then the musicians blasted into “Always a Friend,” the singalong rocker that’s become Escovedo’s signature tune. One re-do of “Beauty and the Buzz” later, Escovedo and his band of merry men and women sent the satiated audience out into the night. “I’ll always come back to Austin,” the local music scene vet enthused at the end. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.

Sharon Jones R.I.P.

We here at Austin City Limits were deeply saddened to learn about the premature passing of Sharon Jones after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer, at the age of 60.

As anyone who ever saw her perform with her crackerjack band the Dap-Kings knows, the Brooklyn native was a powerhouse onstage. Her rich vocals and dynamic stage presence could rouse a dead man from his grave. She spent her first forty years as a session backup vocalist, wedding singer, corrections officer and armored car guard – it’s as if it all came bursting out when she was finally given her turn in the spotlight in 1996, when she recorded her first single “Switchblade.” Once she had the Dap-Kings writing for, producing and backing her on the road, she was unstoppable. She released a series of classic old-school soul and funk LPs on DapTone in the new millennium, starting with Dap Dippin’ in 2002 and sadly ending with her 2015 Christmas album It’s a Holiday Soul Party and compilation soundtrack to the acclaimed documentary Miss Sharon Jones! Tunes like “Stranger to My Happiness,” “I Learned the Hard Way” and “100 Days, 100 Nights” will last as long as the 60s soul and R&B classics that inspired them. With her unflagging optimism (even in the face of cancer) and soaring musical capacity, Sharon Jones was a shining light in an often dark industry, and she will be missed.

Jones and the Dap-Kings rocked the ACL house in 2008 during Season 34. Here she is performing the opening cut, joined by a member of our audience on the funky “How Do I Let a Good Man Down?”

Giveaway: ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO 11/30

UPDATE: Giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping performances by ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO on Wednesday, Nov. 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 Monday, Nov. 28th.

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.