New tapings: Ed Sheeran, Father John Misty and Herbie Hancock

photo by Greg Williams

Austin City Limits is excited to announce upcoming tapings with a trio of music’s finest.  UK superstar Ed Sheeran returns on August 20 for his second Austin City Limits appearance, supporting his chart-topping new album ÷. Indie rock star Father John Misty arrives on August 22 making his ACL debut, in support of his third album Pure Comedy and iconic Herbie Hancock makes his long-awaited ACL debut on October 12.

Ed Sheeran – an eleven-time Grammy nominee and multiple Grammy winner – has quickly established himself as one of music’s biggest acts with over 22 million albums sold and 4.7 billion Spotify streams. His latest release ÷ (pronounced “divide”) debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and finds the 26-year-old sensation in his finest form yet. Drawing inspiration from a wide array of experiences and subjects, Sheeran takes us through a hugely personal journey by reflecting on past relationships, family memories, his musical career and his time off traveling the world in 2016. Musically, ÷ is a varied collection of beautifully orchestrated and emotive ballads, impassioned raps laid over hip hop beats, timeless acoustic guitar masterpieces, and innovative, idiosyncratic pop music. Rolling Stone notes that “Sheeran’s musical history lesson is both well-timed and rip-roaringly fun,” while The New York Times calls it “a batteries-fully-charged assault on the pop charts from a performer skilled in musical osmosis.” Sheeran made chart history this year with the first two singles from ÷, “Shape Of You” and “Castle On The Hill,” debuting at #1 and #6 respectively on Billboard’s Hot 100, making him the first artist in the chart’s 58-year history ever to debut two singles in the top 10 simultaneously.  Sheeran continues to break records, with lead single “Shape Of You” recently becoming the third song ever to hit an incredible 1 billion streams on Spotify.  His follow-up single “Castle On The Hill” has logged over 185 million views on YouTube and has already begun its ascent up the charts.  This June, Sheeran received the prestigious Hal David Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.  

photo by Guy Lowndes

photo by Guy Lowndes

The erstwhile Josh Tillman (under which name he first appeared on ACL in 2012 as drummer for Fleet Foxes) grew up in Rockville, Maryland. Discovered in Seattle by singer/songwriter Damien Jurado, he began touring and making records, releasing eight under his own name and joining Fleet Foxes for the recording and touring cycle of 2011’s Helplessness Blues. As Father John Misty, he gained immediate attention with 2012’s Fear Fun, solidifying the status of his lyric-heavy, melodic folk rock with 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear. Misty’s artistry comes to a head on the madly ambitious new album Pure Comedy. Inspired by the chaos and uncertainty of modern life, Misty writes “about the dubious privilege of being here, the elusiveness of meaning, true love and its habitual absence, random euphoria and the inexplicable misery of others, truth and its more alluring counterfeits, the sophistication of answers that don’t make any sense, the barbarism of our appetites, lucky breaks and injustice, faith and ignorance, crippling, mind-numbing boredom, and the terror of it all ending too soon.” Heady stuff, wrapped in lyrical wit and the kind of melodies Harry Nilsson would’ve killed to write. “This is a big-idea album in a way none of his work was before,” notes Paste, while Exclaim says that it’s “packed with so much meaning and complexity, it feels as overwhelmingly absurd, joyous, curious, tragic, extraordinary and contradictory as life itself.” Under the Radar puts it far more simply: “Pure Comedy is big and clever, and oh so very brilliant.”

Herbie Hancock for blogSix decades into an extraordinary career, 14-time GRAMMY Award winner Herbie Hancock remains at the forefront of world culture, technology, business and music. In addition to being recognized as a legendary pianist and composer, the ardent music ambassador has been an integral part of every popular music movement since the 1960s. As a member of the Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet, he pioneered a groundbreaking sound in jazz. He also developed new approaches on his own classic ‘60s recordings like Maiden Voyage, followed by his work in the ‘70s with record-breaking albums such as Head Hunters, combining electric jazz with funk and rock in an innovative style that continues to influence contemporary music. His trailblazing 1983 cross-over smash “Rockit,” an early hip-hop touchstone, is considered one of the first songs to feature “scratching,” and with the album Future Shock marked Hancock’s foray into electronic dance sounds; during the same period he also continued to work in an acoustic setting with V.S.O.P., which included ex-Miles Davis bandmates Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Hancock received an Academy Award for his Round Midnight film score and fourteen Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year for River: The Joni Letters – only the second jazz album in the Recording Academy’s history to ever receive that award – and two Grammy Awards for 2011’s globally collaborative CD The Imagine Project. He was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor in 2013, published his memoir Herbie Hancock: Possibilities in 2014 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. Many of his compositions, including “Cantaloupe Island,” “Maiden Voyage,” “Watermelon Man” (a tune from his first album that has been recorded over 200 times) and “Chameleon,” are modern standards. Hancock will be touring across the globe this summer and fall and is currently at work on a new studio album.

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before each taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.

Taping recap: Norah Jones

photo by Scott Newton

Norah Jones is a longtime friend of Austin City Limits, so we’re always happy to have the Texas native back on our stage. For her fourth visit, the nine-time Grammy Award-winner performed selections from her latest album Day Breaks, alongside choice gems from her multi-platinum 2002 breakout debut Come Away With Me.  Critics have hailed the jazz-inflected Day Breaks as a kindred spirit to the landmark Come Away With Me, expanding on its bestselling sound by incorporating the musical influences she’s absorbed since her breakthrough.

Jones and her five-piece band took the stage for the title track of Day Breaks, its gentle funk underpinning her melancholy lines about “raining in my heart.” Making the debt to her debut explicit, she then went into the overtly jazzy “I’ve Got to See You Again,” from Come Away With Me. Joined only by bassist Josh Lattanzi and drummer Greg Wieczorek, Jones performed an elegant take on Horace Silver’s standard “Peace.” Guitarist Jason Roberts and keyboardist Pete Remm came back to the stage for a return to Come Away via the light, folky “Something is Calling You,” enhanced by flautist Jacob Duncan. Jones and band, with guest steel player Dan Iyeta, then essayed a countrified take on Neil Young’s classic “Don’t Be Denied,” another cut from Day Breaks. Duncan returned on sax for “Burn,” an ethereal epic that took full advantage of Jones’ underrated piano skills.

Jones strapped on a guitar and reached into the catalog of Puss N Boots, her alt.country side band, for the two-stepping “Hey You.” Iyeta returned to the stage as Jones moved to her electric piano for the soulful ballad “Rosie’s Lullaby,” then it was back to the guitar for “Nightingale,” a widescreen tune from Come Away With Me highlighting Roberts’ rocking guitar solos. She returned to her signature grand piano stylings for the jazzy pop tune “Tragedy” and the lovely piano ballad (with pedal steel enhancement) “Humble Me.” She went back to Day Breaks for the smoky “Sleeping Wild,” before really digging into her jazz training for a stunning cover of Duke Ellington’s “Fleurette Africaine” (“African Flower”), humming the melody with Duncan’s alto sax in tow.

The rest of the band came back for the galloping rocker “Flipside,” before ending the main set with “Carry On,” a bluesy ballad with gospel organ that’s tailor-made for a set-closer. The crowd showed its appreciation, even more so when Jones returned, acoustic guitar in hand, with Lattanzi on double bass, Roberts on resonator guitar and Wieczorek on portable snare. The quartet pulled a surprising cover out of its collective hat: the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple,” reimagined as a folk classic.  It was a fitting way to bring a gorgeous show to a close, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.  

Taping recap: The Black Angels

photo by Scott Newton

It’s no surprise that we at ACL love to showcase Austin’s finest acts when we have the opportunity. So we were thrilled to welcome back Central Texas’ modern psychedelic sons The Black Angels for their livestreamed second appearance. Performing the entirety of their latest album, the critically-acclaimed Death Song, alongside crowd favorites, the Angels delivered a scorching set of darkly droning, acid-kissed rock & roll.

Surrounded by screens projecting trippy kaleidoscopic images, the band kicked things off with new album opener “Currency” a politcally charged tirade that rolled off the stage on a wave of reverb anchored by frontman Alex Maas’ keening vocals. A twanging guitar line signaled the start of “The Prodigal Sun,” from the band’s striking debut Passover, much to the approval of the crowd. Backed by the otherworldly display of abstract lighting, the Angels launched into the droning but rocking “Entrance Song,” before upping the energy level for “Better Off Alone.” The quintet returned to the new record for the menacing “I Dreamt,” aptly displaying the darker side of the hippie dream as implied by their name. The rhythm-driven “Medicine” added a side of funk to the group’s smoky acid rock, while “Hunt Me Down” glowered its way through the grungy riffs of guitarists Christian Bland and Jake Garcia.

The Angels returned to social commentary with “Grab As Much (as you can),” another spear in the side of greed. Bland sat down at the keyboard for the dreamy open of “Half Believing,” its idyll altered by drummer Stephanie Bailey’s insistent thump and Garcia’s fuzzed-out Rickenbacker. The energy level blasted off immediately after for the growling “Bloodhounds,” the guitars competing with multi-instrumentalist Kyle Hunt’s cutting Farfisa organ, and stayed high for the cheerfully threatening “I’d Kill For Her.” The dramatic, arresting “Comanche Moon” came next, as Maas imagined vengeance on behalf of First Peoples everywhere. The Angels ended the main set with the melancholy atmospheres of “Life Song,” Maas’ cries of “I’ll see you on the other side” belying the song’s title.   

It wasn’t over, of course; after the appropriate amount of cheering, the band returned for the blurry, meditative “Estimate.” An insistently buzzing guitar snapped the atmosphere into sharper focus for “Death March,” one of Death Song’s standouts. The Angels returned to the beginning for the final number, swirling its fuzzy guitars, pounding rhythms and seething rage for “Young Men Dead,” a warning shot from Passover that got the audience riled up on first lick. It was a perfect closer for this terrific show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.    

Taping recap: The Head and the Heart

photo by Scott Newton

The Head and the Heart returned to the Austin City Limits stage for its second appearance on the show, on the heels of its acclaimed third LP Signs of Light. The livestreamed performance left no fan disappointed, as the Seattle band hit the stage with its effervescent melodies and poignant harmonies intact.

The band took the stage, tuned up and went into the hyper-melodic “All We Ever Knew,” from Signs of Light. The sextet stuck to the new record for “City of Angels,” a rocking paean to Los Angeles. Kenny Hensely’s piano pounding then signaled a look back to the band’s beloved first album in the form of the rollicking tune “Ghosts.” “Rhythm and Blues” followed, its title genre subtly woven into the rhythm, before the pace slowed a bit with the shimmering “Another Story.” The Head and the Heart then essayed the lovely “Let’s Be Still,” the lush duet between leader Jonathan Russell and violinist Charity Rose Thielen that became a stirring anthem and serves as title track to the combo’s second record.

The cut-time strumming of Russell’s acoustic guitar brought the folk-popping “Lost in My Mind,” one of the band’s hits and, from the sound of the cheers, a clear crowd favorite. The group showcased its trademark harmonies on “Winter Song,” a fingerpicked folk tune of surpassing beauty. Then came a surprise – the Seattleites paid tribute to late Soundgarden leader Chris Cornell with a gently faithful take on Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” sung by new guitarist Matthew Gervais and Russell, that found great favor with the audience. Following that triumph, Russell commanded the stage solo for “Oh My Dear,” a dramatic ballad that segued into the full band thumper “I Don’t Mind,” both from Signs of Light. The Head and the Heart returned to its debut for the tunefulness overload of “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” before cranking the amps and the rhythm for Let It Be Still’s “Shake.” The main set ended with “Down in the Valley,” the fan favorite folk pop anthem that distills the band’s essence into one memorable number.

One boisterously cheering crowd later, Russell, Thielen and Gervais returned to the stage for “Library Magic,” putting their own stamp on the guitar ‘n’ three part harmony sound of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The rest of the band came back onstage to close with the crowd-pleaser “Rivers and Roads,” one of the group’s most potent folk rock anthems. The crowd went appropriately wild, and the band quit the stage to rapturous applause. It was a great show, and we’re happy for you to see it this fall when it airs on your local PBS station.

ACL to livestream tapings from The Head and the Heart and The Black Angels

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Austin City Limits is proud to announce a pair of back-to-back livestreams with two of today’s most thrilling live acts. We will be streaming the upcoming tapings of Seattle’s The Head and the Heart on May 22 and Austin’s own The Black Angels on May 23, live and in their entirety, directly from the Austin City Limits stage at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel.  Both acts are making return appearances to the ACL stage armed with acclaimed new albums.

When Seattle band, The Head and the Heart, who first appeared on ACL in Season 37, regrouped in 2016 to start writing together again after a sabbatical, “it almost felt like we were a new band, trying things we hadn’t tried,” bassist  Chris Zasche recalls. “We stayed at a bungalow on the beach. We’d wake up, have coffee and go boogie boarding. We were ready and excited to be back together.” That renewed sense of purpose can be felt throughout their major label debut, Signs of Light, the group’s third album and first release for Warner Bros. Records. “This album isn’t about us now having achieved our dreams,” says vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Charity Rose Thielen. “The day we started being able to live off our art was the day we achieved our dreams, in my mind. This is the album where we really fell into our true voices as those artists.” Recorded in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Cage The Elephant), Signs of Light crackles with the upbeat, singalong energy of the band’s finest work. Throughout, the colors are brighter, the electric guitars are louder and the musical touchstones more universal. Lead single “All We Ever Knew,” written during the Let’s Be Still era but never captured to the band’s satisfaction until now, is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, while “Turn It Around” seems primed to be a future concert staple, matching its inspirational message with a lush and multi-layered soundscape. Blurt say the album “fulfills the aim the band’s handle appears to indicate. This is after all, music that connects with the head and the heart, and imparts a dual sense of resilience and delight in its wake.” Join us on May 22nd for The Head and the Heart’s highly-anticipated second ACL taping.

BlackAngels_Livestream_43_squareAustin psych rock masters The Black Angels appear with charged new songs from Death Song, their first full-length release in four years, and their debut for Partisan Records. NPR raves, “The Black Angels have delivered an enormous and frighteningly timely fifth album full of uniquely trippy anthems to oblivion.”  Written and recorded in large part during the recent election cycle, the music serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease. Recorded between Seattle and Austin, the eleven-track collection offers a sharply honed elaboration on their signature sound – menacing fuzz guitar and cutting wordplay, steeped in a murky hallucinatory dream. Since forming in Austin in 2004, The Black Angels have become standard-bearers for modern psych-rock, and the New York Times has said they “play psychedelic rock as if the 1960s never ended, and they are absolute masters of it.” The Black Angels made a stellar ACL debut in 2013 and we look forward to their return.

Please join us May 22 and May 23 for these full-set livestreams on our ACLTV YouTube channel. The broadcast versions will air on PBS later this year as part of Season 43.

New taping: The Black Angels

photo by Sandy Carson

Austin City Limits is thrilled to welcome back hometown heroes The Black Angels on May 23rd for their second ACL taping, armed with a powerful new record Death Song.

Death Song is the Austin psych rock masters’ first full-length release in four years, and their debut for Partisan Records. NPR raves, “The Black Angels have delivered an enormous and frighteningly timely fifth album full of uniquely trippy anthems to oblivion.”  Written and recorded in large part during the recent election cycle, the music serves as part protest, part emotional catharsis in a climate dominated by division, anxiety and unease. “Currency,” a strong contender for the heaviest song the band has ever put to wax, meditates on the governing role the monetary system plays in our lives.  Album highlight “Half Believing,” the track Texas Monthly calls “a turning point for the band,” is a slow-building stunner that questions the nature and confusing realities of devotion. Recorded between Seattle and Austin, ‘Death Song’ features production from Phil Ek (Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes, The Shins). The eleven-track collection offers a sharply honed elaboration on their signature sound – menacing fuzz guitar and cutting wordplay, steeped in a murky hallucinatory dream.  Classic Rock says Death Song “is their heaviest to date, a toxic draught of garage-rock and booming psychedelia that buzzes with echo and reverb,” while A.V. Club claims “confirms there’s no end to the kinds of hurt and frustration that can be channeled into its cathartic music.”

Since forming in Austin in 2004, The Black Angels have become standard-bearers for modern psych-rock, and the New York Times has said they “play psychedelic rock as if the 1960s never ended, and they are absolute masters of it.” The band’s 2010 breakthrough Phosphene Dream launched the Austin collective onto the world stage, drawing massive audiences for their scorched earth live shows and touring with Queens of the Stone Age, Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Black Keys and more, and landing on festival stages including Glastonbury, Fuji Rock, Primavera, Harvest Fest, Coachella, Bonnaroo, Fun Fun Fun Fest and, of course, Austin City Limits Music Festival. Two of the band members co-founded Levitation Festival (formerly Austin Psych Fest) in 2008, which has since grown into one of the best-reviewed and expertly-curated festivals in the country. The Black Angels made a stellar ACL debut in 2013 and we look forward to their return.

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before each taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.

Taping recap: Benjamin Booker

photo by Scott Newton

Benjamin Booker has been on the ACL radar for a couple of years now. So we were thrilled to finally host the singer/songwriter/guitarist for his debut taping, which we streamed live around the world. The New Orleans-based Booker gifted us with a soulful, standout show, featuring plenty of songs from his highly anticipated sophomore album Witness, out in June.

But first Booker revisited his acclaimed 2014 self-titled debut with a quartet of rocking tunes. He and his four-piece band kicked off the show with the galloping “Have You Seen My Son?” The rhythms stayed blazing for “Old Hearts,” before slipping into a shuffling boogie for “Chippewa,” Booker’s husky croon taking on a playful cast. The band grabbed hold of a sexy groove for “Happy Homes,” highlighted by a bluesy guitar solo. Booker put down his guitar for “Off the Ground,” a Witness tune that started as a lush soul ballad but transformed into a snarling rocker. Speaking of which, he re-donned his guitar and launched into the familiar riff of his radio hit “Violent Shiver,” garnering cheers from the crowd. He then brought on “someone I’ve never performed with before but I’ve known for a long time” – his big sister Nicole, who added harmonies to the fast-choogling “Wicked Water.”

“This is my first time with backing singers,” Booker commented. “I’ve made it, people!” Three vocalists joined Nicole for a set from the new record, starting with the relaxed and funky “Overtime.” The hip-swaying “Slow Drag Under” followed, setting itself up as a cut likely to be in his repertoire for the rest of his career. Rock & roll returned to the menu with the rollicking “Right On You,” before Booker once again set aside his axe for the new record’s single, the gospel-soaked anthem “Witness” – already a clear crowd favorite. He continued channeling his inner soul man for “Carry,” before strapping on the guitar once again for the accordion-laced, set-closing ballad “Slow Coming.”

The audience wanted more, of course, and Booker was ready, bounding back onstage. Bringing on a string section to accompany himself and the band, he manned the mic for the soul-stirring anthem “Believe.” “I just want to believe in something,” he sang, “I don’t care if it’s right or wrong.” The song was definitely right, and the crowd showed its appreciation quite loudly. One group bow later, Booker and band quit the stage to a rapturous reception. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when the episode airs this fall on your local PBS station.

Taping recap: Miranda Lambert

photo by Scott Newton

We here at Austin City Limits were proud to welcome back country superstar Miranda Lambert for her third appearance on our stage. Riding high on her best selling double album The Weight of These Wings, which won Album of the Year at the 2017 ACM Awards, she was named ACM Female Vocalist of the Year for a record-breaking eight consecutive years, the Lindale, Texas native delivered a power-packed show full of indelible hits and stunning performances.

Lambert and her eight-piece band hit the stage with a rocking “Kerosene,” the title track to her 2005 idebut album and her traditional show opener. She then dipped into the new album with “Highway Vagabond,” a choogler about the road life, before going into the crowd favorite “Heart Like Mine.” “I wrote this one from the perspective of not giving a s**t about what people think about me,” Lambert said by way of introduction to “For the Birds,” a deceptively easygoing ode to defiant self-confidence. She continued sampling the new record with the hit rocker “Vice” and the cheeky “We Should Be Friends.” The band then went back to the earlier Four the Record for the soulful ballad “Over You” and the celebratory anthem “All Kinds of Kinds,” which had the crowd waving in time to the beat. Then it was time for “The House That Built Me,” Lambert’s Grammy-winning ballad that shifted her from star to superstar.

The mood shifted from serious to fun with the slow grind “Pink Sunglasses.” “Ugly Lights,” the defiant paean to justifiable bad behavior segued directly into the freight train fan fave “Mama’s Broken Heart.” The party vibe kept flowing with “Fastest Girl in Town,” a thumbs-up to bad girls everywhere. After introducing the band, Lambert then led them in a lighter-waving cover of Little Feat’s classic “Willin,” which came across like she wrote it. The musicians shifted to heartland rock for “Automatic,” before adding some countrified garage rock with “Little Red Wagon.” The set ended with her killer one-two punch of declarative defiance: “White Liar” and “Gunpowder and Lead,” complete with shotgun mic stand.

Lambert returned to the stage alone for her latest single: the poignant “Tin Man,” co-written by fellow Texan singer/songwriters Jack Ingram and Jon Randall. The stark, heartfelt performance was a perfect way to end the show. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.