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.

Heartless Bastards taping livestreams on 11/23


Austin City Limits is pleased to announce that we will be streaming our taping with Heartless Bastards live on Monday, Nov. 23, 8pm CT/9pm ET. Powered by Dell, the taping will webcast in its entirety via our YouTube channel.

Heartless Bastards have spent the past decade in motion, boldly pushing their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll into new shapes over four acclaimed albums and nearly non-stop roadwork. Now, with Restless Ones, the band sets out once again, blazing a path to a place of shifting moods, seasoned songcraft, and unbridled spontaneity. The Austin-based band’s fifth studio recording finds singer/songwriter Erika Wennerstrom exploring as-yet-unvisited avenues of sound and sensation, her bravery and ambition readily apparent in the emotional timbre and the sheer physicality of her songs. “We took a lot of chances,” Wennerstrom says, “taking the sounds in different directions in order to grow. I don’t ever want to make the same album twice.” Tracked in August 2014 during a 10-day session at El Paso’s renowned Sonic Ranch, Restless Onesis a statement of collective confidence and ambitious vision,” says Magnet. “These songs capture an outstanding band hitting its stride,” says AllMusic, “and growing more comfortable with the craft of record-making along with singing and playing great, passionate music.” Rich with purpose, passion, and commanding musicianship, Restless Ones captures an idiosyncratic band exploring their craft and soul in an effort to reach a place that’s both true and transcendent. Heartless Bastards continue to drive their monumental music ever forward, towards hidden vistas and horizons still unseen. Follow their journey with us.

The broadcast version of this show will air as part of our Season 41 on PBS.  Join us for this live webcast of the Austin City Limits return of Heartless Bastards.

New taping: The Tedeschi Trucks Band

Tedeschi Trucks Band Featured photo

We’re proud to announce the final taping of Season 41, the Austin City Limits debut of the Tedeschi Trucks Band on December 14th.

Formed in 2010 by guitarist Derek Trucks and singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, who appeared twice on ACL under her own name, the 12-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band has quickly become the vanguard of modern roots music. Hailed as “a deeply skilled groove machine (Los Angeles Times) that “booms like a soul thunderclap” (Boston Herald), the band has cemented their reputation for thrilling audiences worldwide with its legendary live performances and award-winning albums. In just five years, Tedeschi Trucks Band has toured extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe, and Japan, with headline performances at both The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the venerable Newport Jazz Festival, co-headlining tours with B.B. King and The Black Crowes, and packed houses from Red Rocks Amphitheatre and NYC’s Beacon Theatre to the Hollywood Bowl and London’s Royal Albert Hall.

TTB’s debut release Revelator earned both a Grammy Award and multiple Blues Music Awards. 2011’s dynamic live follow-up, Everybody’s Talkin’, delivered a double-disc classic reminiscent of legendary concert recordings like The Allman Brothers Band’s At Fillmore East. Its sophomore studio effort, 2013’s Made Up Mind, bolstered the Jacksonville, Florida-based group’s growing reputation as the preeminent soul, rock and blues leader. The band’s highly anticipated third studio album Let Me Get By will be released in early 2016.

Sharing a level of respect and camaraderie rarely found in rock and roll, TTB has found a magical combination that delivers nightly an unforgettable, can’t-miss concert experience.

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.

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.  

New taping: Ms. Lauryn Hill


Austin City Limits is proud to welcome hip-hop/R&B icon Ms. Lauryn Hill to the stage Nov. 7 for her debut taping, in a rare television appearance.

Acclaimed artist Ms. Lauryn Hill achieved astounding success as a member of hip-hop trio The Fugees, whose 1996 breakthrough The Score featured the multi-platinum hits “Ready or Not” and “Killing Me Softly,” won a pair of Grammys and remains one of the best-selling hip-hop records of all time.  She launched her solo career in 1998 with the release of the landmark album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and became the first woman or hip-hop artist to earn a record-breaking five Grammy Awards.  The album has sold nearly 20 million records, is regarded as one of the most important releases of the last 25 years, and was entered into the Library of Congress this year as a timeless and classic recording that is the embodiment of who we are as a people and a nation.

Most recently, Ms. Hill executive produced and recorded six songs for the 2015 release Nina Revisited: A Tribute to Nina Simone, including a stunning take on Simone’s signature track “Feeling Good.”  We’re thrilled to welcome Ms. Hill to the Austin City Limits stage.

In  addition to performing at ACLTV Ms. Lauryn Hill will also headline the Fun Fun Fun Fest Orange Stage on Sunday, November 8th. Passes for the festival are available for purchase at funfunfunfest.com.

Want to be part of our audience? The ticket giveaway information is up now – please go to our website to enter.


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.