The Pretenders rock the first taping of ACL season 43

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits was thrilled to kick off our 43rd taping season with the legendary rock & roll band The Pretenders, streamed live around the world. Led, as always, by singer/songwriter/guitarist Chrissie Hynde, the band blazed through a catalog packed with hits and favorites, stopping along the way to sample the group’s latest LP Alone as well.

In that vein, the Pretenders opened the show with the rollicking title track, guitarist James Walbourne and steel player Eric Heywood trading licks like Keith Richards and Ron Wood, and Hynde singing the paean to singlehood with confident swagger. Hynde donned her trademark Telecaster for the pounding “Gotta Wait,” original drummer Martin Chambers bashing his kit like a jackhammer. His shift to a glam rock beat signaled the first classic, as Hynde led the band into the indelible rocker “Message of Love,” from the band’s second record II. “You don’t have to be polite, as we don’t plan to be,” she asserted. Then it was into the dub reggae-flavored “Private Life,” another hit and one that highlighted how good her voice still sounds, nearly 40 years into her career. The band then dipped into Stockholm, Hynde’s 2014 solo album, recasting “Down the Wrong Way” as a Pretenderized rocker. Rhythm section Chambers and bassist Nick Wilkinson then took a break, as Hynde crooned Meg Keene’s lovely ballad “Hymn to Her,” recorded for the Pretenders’ fourth album Get Close.

Reclaiming her Telecaster, Hynde hit the instantly recognizable chord of “Talk of the Town,” bringing the audience to their feet. They stayed there for that other rhythm guitar-centered hit, “Back On the Chain Gang” – both songs proven, timeless classics. The group ventured back into ballad territory with “I’ll Stand By You,” the top 20 hit from the mid-90s’ Last of the Independents that really showcases Hynde’s spectacular singing. She then lightened the mood, asking “Do you feel like dancing?” before the sprightly pop song “Don’t Get Me Wrong.” To the crowd’s delight, the band reached all the way back to 1979 for “Stop Your Sobbing,” the Kinks cover that served as the first Pretenders single. After commenting on the group’s time in Austin, including a shout-out to longtime Austin music fixtures Charlie Sexton and Willie Nelson, Hynde led them into the loping, bass-driven fan favorite “My City Was Gone.” The Pretenders then extracted a truly deep cut from its self-titled first LP, rolling through the shoulda-been-hit “Mystery Achievement,” before closing out the main set with a pulse-pounding rip through the hit “Middle of the Road” that left the audience on fire.  

For the encore, the band returned to the latest album Alone with the shimmering “Let’s Get Lost” and subtly defiant “I Hate Myself.” Then it was back to rocking with “Up the Neck,” an unheralded blaster from the band’s first album. Speaking of which, the band went back for the only song that could end a set this hit-packed: “Brass in Pocket,” the early single that marked the Pretenders as a major band in three minutes. Hynde encouraged the audience to come to the lip of the stage, even bringing a member onstage to serenade. The crowd went as wild as one might expect, the band quitting the stage to rapturous applause. It was a great set, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.   

ACL to livestream Pretenders taping on March 13

pretenders

Austin City Limits kicks off Season 43 with what’s sure to be the talk of the town: a livestream of rock legends The Pretenders’ ACL debut, taping March 13. The taping will be streamed live in its entirety directly from the Austin City Limits stage, and fans worldwide can watch the concert Monday, March 13 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel as it happens.

Led by iconic singer/songwriter/guitarist Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders have blazed a trail in rock ‘n’ roll for four decades and come to ACL in support of latest album Alone. Recorded with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach at his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville, the album was initially conceived as the follow-up to Hynde’s acclaimed 2014 solo debut Stockholm. But as its songs and sonics took shape, the collection soon revealed itself as the first all-new Pretenders LP since 2008′s Break Up The Concrete. Backed by a team of what Hynde proudly calls “real people playing real instruments,” Akron natives Hynde and Auerbach made for ideal foils, two idiosyncratic songwriter/musicians possessing a deep knowledge and even deeper love of rock ‘n’ roll.

Alone bears all the trademarks of The Pretenders’ legendary canon: raw and rollicking riffs, poignant balladry, taut hooks and indelible melodies – all in service of Hynde’s heartworn, ever-unsentimental songcraft. Nearly four decades on from the band’s epochal 1980 debut album, Hynde’s instantly identifiable voice, called “one of rock’s finest,” by The Guardian, is perhaps more emotional and aggressive than at any other time in her career.  That extra bit of edge only serves to add fire to new Pretenders classics like the brutally candid “I Hate Myself” and the defiant title track, a spiky rocker that sees Hynde extolling the joys and virtues of solitude. “At 65, she’s still mouthing off over brass-knuckled rock & roll,” notes Rolling Stone, “flexing command and carnality with no apology.”

Other highlights include “Roadie Man,” a softly sung paean to the hard working touring crew that has been kicking around Hynde’s unrecorded songbook for more than 25 years, the seductive “Let’s Get Lost,” and “Never Be Together,” featuring an appropriately twangy contribution from pioneering guitar hero Duane Eddy. The UK’s The Independent asserts that Alone is “a fine album, subtly varied in both musical style and lyrical slant,” while Magnet declares it’s “as good a Pretenders record as has been made.” Armed with original drummer Martin Chambers, a new landmark and their catalog of undeniable classics, The Pretenders finally make their long-awaited ACL debut.

Please join us March 13 for this full-set livestream on our ACLTV YouTube channel. The broadcast version will air on PBS later this year as part of our Season 43.

New tapings: Miranda Lambert, The Head And The Heart, Norah Jones

photo by Daniela Federici

Our 43rd season on PBS is getting off to a great start! We’ve already announced the Pretenders on March 13th, and we’re thrilled to report we’ll be taping Miranda Lambert on April 19th, The Head and the Heart on May 22nd and Norah Jones on June 11th.

Miranda Lambert makes her third appearance on ACL on April 19th in support of her sixth album The Weight of These Wings. Since the Lindale, Texas native’s first appearance in 2006, she has earned widespread acclaim, including two Grammy Awards, thirteen Country Music Association Awards, and an astonishing twenty-five Academy of Country Music Awards. Lambert is the reigning ACM Female Vocalist of the Year, having been bestowed this honor for seven consecutive years. A sprawling double-album, The Weight of These Wings debuted at #1 on Billboard’s country albums chart, as well as at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart, and spawned the current hit singles “Vice” and “We Should Be Friends.” Rolling Stone calls The Weight of These Wings Lambert’s “most ambitious LP…the sort of Great Album rock acts used to spit out regularly back in the day,” while the Boston Globe says the album “matches the take-no-prisoners attitude of her lyrics with music that travels unexpected routes but often winds up touching the soul.” The record ended up on over a dozen Best of 2016 lists, including those from Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Billboard, Spin and more.

photo by James Minchin

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 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 second ACL taping.

photo by Danny Clinch

Norah Jones made her first appearance on the ACL stage in 2002, just prior to the release of her landmark debut Come Away With Me, which propelled her to the world stage, sweeping the 2003 Grammy Awards and signaling a paradigm shift away from the prevailing pop music of the time. Since then, Jones has sold 50 million albums worldwide and become a nine-time Grammy-winner, returning to ACL in 2007 and again in 2013. But when the Texas native first moved to New York City in the Summer of 1999,  it was with the hope of being a jazz singer and pianist, and her jazz influences — from Bill Evans and Miles Davis to Billie Holiday and Nina Simone — have always remained. Now Jones has come full circle with Day Breaks, her sixth album which finds her returning to the piano and her jazz roots, while still retaining her unmistakably unique sound that weaves together several bedrock styles of American music: country, folk, rock, soul, jazz. Day Breaks is a kindred spirit to Come Away With Me, though it is unquestionably the work of a mature artist who has lived life and grown immensely in her craft. The album features jazz luminaries including saxophonist Wayne Shorter, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, and drummer Brian Blade, who played on Norah’s debut and became the backbone of the new album. Rolling Stone calls it “A marvelous consolidation, floating buoyantly between past tradition and her own unique present,” while MOJO declares Small-hours jazz perfection … her masterpiece to date … inspired and breathtaking.” Jones returns to the ACL stage on  June 11th.

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.

New taping: The Pretenders

pretenders

Austin City Limits is pleased to announce our first taping of Season 43—with the legendary rock & roll band The Pretenders on March 13, 2017.   

Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders come to ACL in support of latest album Alone. Recorded with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach at his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville, the album was initially conceived as the follow-up to Hynde’s acclaimed 2014 solo debut Stockholm. But as its songs and sonics took shape, the collection soon revealed itself as the first all-new Pretenders LP since 2008′s Break Up The Concrete. Backed by a team of what Hynde proudly calls “real people playing real instruments,” including most of Auerbach’s side band the Arcs, Akron natives Hynde and Auerbach made for ideal foils, two idiosyncratic songwriter/musicians possessing a deep knowledge and even deeper love of rock & roll.

Alone bears all the trademarks of The Pretenders’ legendary canon: raw and rollicking riffs, poignant balladry, taut hooks and indelible melodies – all in service of Hynde’s heartworn, ever-unsentimental songcraft. Nearly four decades on from the band’s epochal 1980 debut album, Hynde’s instantly identifiable voice is perhaps more emotional and aggressive than at any other time in her nearly 40-year career. That extra bit of edge only serves to add fire to new Pretenders classics like the brutally candid “I Hate Myself” and the defiant title track, a spiky rocker that sees Hynde extolling the joys and virtues of solitude. “At 65, she’s still mouthing off over brass-knuckled rock & roll,” notes Rolling Stone, “flexing command and carnality with no apology.”

Other highlights include “Roadie Man,” a softly sung paean to the hard working touring crew that has been kicking around Hynde’s unrecorded songbook for more than 25 years, the seductive “Let’s Get Lost,” and “Never Be Together,” featuring an inimitable contribution from legendary twang bar hero Duane Eddy. The UK’s The Independent asserts that Alone is “a fine album, subtly varied in both musical style and lyrical slant,” while Magnet declares it’s “as good a Pretenders record as has been made.” Armed with original drummer Martin Chambers, a new landmark and their catalog of undeniable classics, The Pretenders finally make their long-awaited ACL debut.

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.

Alejandro Escovedo rocks ACL Season 42 to a close

photo by Scott Newton

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.

CeCe Winans and St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ souled-out performances

photo by Scott Newton

CeCe Winans is a gospel legend, selling millions of albums and garnering ten Grammy Awards. St. Paul & the Broken Bones have taken the music world by storm, rising quickly through the ranks with a distinctive Americana-tinged soul sound. Both artists can raise the roof, and we were thrilled to host both of their debuts on our stage, where the ceiling definitely had trouble staying attached.

Bringing church to ACL, Detroit native Winans and her eleven-piece band opened with a funky New Orleans version of the old classic “When the Saints Go Marching In” that segued into a medley of “Victory is Mine” and “In the Name of Jesus We Have Victory.” Celebratory spirit thus established, she then shifted to new material from her upcoming Let Them Fall in Love, her first album in nine years, out February 3, 2017. The bluesy “Hey Devil!” told Lucifer to get lost with a high-spirited romp that included the chorus of Ray Charles’ gospel-derived “Hit the Road, Jack.” “Run to Him,” a love song to Jesus, brought old school soul to the party, as well as a call-and-response that employed two different counterpoints for Winans to sing over. “Peace From God” rode an easygoing groove as it delivered its message, while “Lowly” added a shot of 70s soul to its rousing call to stay low (because there’s no place to fall). Winans then brought Texas to the gospel equation, with a powerhouse take on Kris Kristofferson’s probing ballad “Why Me Lord” that got the biggest round of applause so far. Barely a second went by before she went into “I Need Thee,” the hymn serving as a coda to “Why Me Lord.” Winans followed with “Never Have to Be Alone,” her latest single and a sky-reaching ballad in the tradition of her late friend Whitney Houston. She closed with “Dancing in the Spirit,” a blazing sing- and dance-along that drove Satan from the building with pure spiritual joy.

But the night wasn’t over yet. Alabama’s St. Paul & the Broken Bones took the stage, singer Paul Janeway decked out in a bright red suit and sparkly golden robe, wailing through “Crumbling Light Posts, Pt.1,” the atmospheric opener to the eight-piece outfit’s second and latest LP Sea of Noise. Janeway doffed his robe and the band launched directly into “Flow With It,” a groovy seduction tune that had the audience in their pockets. The rocking yet grooving “Mighty River” drew right from the Muscle Shoals tradition, Janeway channeling the late, great blue-eyed soul homeboy Eddie Hinton. One flute intro later, the Bones eased into the clever plea “I’ll Be Your Woman.” “This is one of those milestone things,” commented Janeway, before the band performed the mid-tempo gem “Tears in the Diamond.” The band then revisited its 2014 debut album with “I’m Torn Up,” a powerhouse ballad that found Janeway in the crowd, preaching the gospel of heartbreak. The Bones dipped their toes back into the Sea of Noise with the rocking funk of “Midnight On the Earth,” which got the audience shaking their groove thangs with abandon. “Waves” followed, a ballad driven by Browan Lollar’s growling guitar, before St. Paul exercised his thrilling falsetto on the 70s grooves of “All I Ever Wonder.” The Bones ended the main set with the anthemic ballad “Sanctify,” to a wild ovation from the crowd.

The band returned, of course, for a generous encore of three tunes. The warm country soul of “Is It Me,” which Janeway introduced as a lullaby, served as a palette cleanser before the raucous R&B of “Call Me,” another gem from the first Bones LP. The group ended the show with “Burning Rome,” a slow burn ballad that had Janeway pulling out all his vocal stops and wrapping his carpet around his shoulders like a cape. The audience loved it, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it broadcast this winter as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.

Parker Millsap sets ACL on fire

photo by Scott Newton

Singer and songwriter Parker Millsap tears it up on our upcoming ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2016 special, airing November 19th, and that standout performance was enough for us to ask him to come do his own appearance on our show. The young Oklahoma native has set the Americana world on fire with his songs, his voice and his live show, and this taping – which we streamed live – showed exactly why.

Taking the stage with his backing trio, Millsap mentioned how he used to watch ACL with his father on Thursday nights on OETA in Oklahoma. He then launched into the title track of his latest album The Very Last Day, a jumpy tune about nuclear annihilation. The rocking, Steve Earle-esque “Hands Up” chronicled a gas station stick up, starring a robber more desperate than diabolical. Following band introductions, Millsap introduced the bluesy “Palisade,” the title tune from his 2012 debut and a showcase for Daniel Foulks’ gypsy fiddle. The quartet then dug into the repertoire of old-time banjoist Charlie Poole for a blues-soaked take on the classic “Hesitation Blues,” a great showcase of Millsap’s gritty howl. He followed with the Bo Diddley-beat of “Pining,” another tune from The Very Last Day. Then it was time for a show-stopper: the NPR favorite “Heaven Sent,” a heart-wrenching ballad about a young gay man in Oklahoma struggling for his Christian father’s acceptance.  The audience justifiably applauded wildly.

Millsap and company followed that heavy tune with “Truck Stop Gospel,” a frisky rocker that garnered cheers as soon as he announced it. His band then quit the stage as Millsap donned an acoustic guitar for “A Little Fire,” a folk ballad that showed off his fingerpicking skills. Another guitar switch and the return of his backup musicians led into “Your Water,” a new country-pop song he wrote with Wimberly native and ACL two-timer Sarah Jarosz. Millsap then gave us another brand new song, the midtempo 70s-style pop/rock tune “Other Arrangements.” which pushed his voice into a winsome falsetto. “Morning Blues” followed a similar, if bluesier, tack. “Quite Contrary,” however, added a shuffling rock beat as Millsap subverted nursery rhymes in telling the stories of Oklahoma meth addicts. Foulks then switched out his fiddle for a guitar on “Wherever You Are,” a bluesy folk rocker. Millsap and band ended the main set with a cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move,” the classic blues song that served as another showcase for both Foulks’ ragged lyricism and Millsap’s remarkable voice. That one-two punch brought the house down.

But of course it wasn’t over. Millsap and the trio returned to the stage for “Hades Pleads,” a choogling rocker in which Death tries to get laid via Millsap’s Plantesque wail. After that triumph, the band took its bows to well-deserved applause. It was a breakout performance by a young artist deserving of all the kudos coming his way, 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.

ACL livestreams Parker Millsap taping 11/9

photo by Laura Partain

Austin City Limits will livestream the highly-anticipated ACL debut of Americana sensation Parker Millsap on November 9.  The taping will be livestreamed in its entirety directly from the Austin City Limits stage, powered by Dell.  Fans everywhere can watch the concert on November 9 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel as it happens.  

With a triumphant appearance on our upcoming Americana Music Festival special, singer/songwriter Parker Millsap makes his full-set Austin City Limits debut in support of his widely-acclaimed third album The Very Last Day.  The 23-year-old grew up doing congregational singing in church and listening to old blues albums in his room, not realizing that howling like a Delta blues ghost readying the world for rock & roll isn’t how a skinny white boy from Purcell, Oklahoma usually sounds.  Nominated for the top honor of Album of the Year at this year’s Americana Music Awards, The Very Last Day proves an ideal vehicle for Millsap’s message, delivered via gospel-tinged rock & roll poetry. In the midst of a world fond of condemnation as entertainment, Millsap offers open-armed love of people and their stories. Whether he’s singing about the experience of a gay friend, longing for his evangelical father’s acceptance, or as the King of the Underworld wild with passion, his character-driven songs mine deep wells of joy and despair to create gut-punching narratives that are sometimes hellish, sometimes heavenly, and always human. We’re happy to welcome Parker Millsap to his first Austin City Limits taping.

Please join us November 9 on our ACLTV YouTube channel as we welcome Parker Millsap. The broadcast version will air early next year as part of our current Season 42 on PBS.