August Greene closes the Season 44 taping season with smart grooves

photo by Scott Newton

On their own, Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins are powerhouses. But put this top tier rapper, keyboardist/producer extraordinaire and renowned drummer/producer together and you have magic. As August Greene, the trio released a stellar debut LP earlier this year that garnered praise from coast to coast. Now, for the final taping of Season 44, the group hit the ACL stage for a riveting set that crossed genres as easily as it made the audience’s booty move.

“We’re honored to be here,” said Common after ACL executive producer Terry Lickona’s opening introduction. Joined by four backing musicians, the group opened with its memorable radio hit “Black Kennedy,” deftly adding the chorus of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” to this celebration of black excellence. Common introduced the next song “Practice,” saying it’s about not knowing all the answers out of the box, and detailed getting through this spiritual practice called life— the powerful track was enhanced by backing singers Samora Pinderhughes and Muhsinah Abdul Karim.  Bassist Burniss Travis signaled the next tune with a beautifully melodic solo, before Pinderhughes joined Common at center stage for “Let Go.” The rapper encouraged the crowd to let go of any of their own negative energy, and they happily obliged. While the beat went on, the group segued directly into “Geto Heaven,” a tune from Common’s breakthrough classic Like Water For Chocolate. The band stayed with Common’s solo career for Be’s infectious “Go,” which earned big cheers. Common talked about working with the late producer J Dilla, leading the audience into his chant from “Thelonius,” another number from Chocolate. He then reached back almost a quarter of a century for “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” from his third solo LP Resurrection, quoting his colleagues, hip-hop all-stars Big Daddy Kane, ODB, Grand Puba, the Pharcyde and Nas along the way.  

We’re always thrilled when an artist presents new music on our stage, and August Greene obliged with “The Rival (She’s Callin),” a soulful new track from the band’s in-progress second LP. Segueing into “Come Close,” Common brought up a thrilled audience member and dazzled with his mic skills, improvising about her, the show and even Austin over the beat. The rhythm turned jazzy, allowing Glasper to show off the piano skills that elevated him to the top of the game in the modern jazz world.  He wasn’t satisfied only displaying his keyboard skills, though – the Grammy-winning jazz and R&B musician challenged the Grammy-laden rapper to a (one-sided) rap battle. That led into a vocal solo from backing vocalist Karim and a drum solo from Riggins. The drummer wasted no time after concluding his improv, driving right into “No Apologies,” a breathless burner from August Greene highlighted by a frisky Glasper solo.

Dissatisfied with the opening take of “Black Kennedy,” Common called for another take. The crowd certainly didn’t mind another “beautiful ride.” Common brought an ecstatic tween onstage for the respect anthem – and final song – “The Light,” before turning the chorus of his Like Water For Chocolate cut over to the crowd. “This has been a blessing tonight,” Common told the audience as the band took bows and exited the stage. It was a great way to end the season, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it broadcasts early next year on your local PBS station.

Willie Nelson’s triumphant return to Austin City Limits

photo by Scott Newton

Forty-four years ago, Austin City Limits debuted with a then-struggling artist who would become an American icon. Four decades after the ACL pilot in which he starred hit the airwaves, Willie Nelson returned to our stage for the first time since 2009, when he taped an episode with Asleep at the Wheel, and for the first time with his own Family band since 1999, during the show’s twenty-fifth anniversary. We welcomed back the country maverick as, working without a setlist, he played the hits, deep cuts from the classic country catalog and songs from his latest LP, the Frank Sinatra tribute My Way – a set we streamed live around the world.

After ACL executive producer Terry Lickona reminded us that Willie launched ACL back in 1974, the eighty-five-year-old took the stage and doffed his cowboy hat to the eager, welcoming crowd. Joined as every by the Family, in service now for forty-five years, Willie launched into “Whiskey River,” the songwriter’s perennial opening number. Following an extended guitar solo, Willie then led the band in the galloping “Still is Still Moving to Me.” Skipping any pause between songs, he ran right into “Beer For My Horses,” the tagline of which was sung by the audience. “Let’s do one for Waylon,” Nelson extolled, leading into“Good Hearted Woman,” his classic duet with the late Waymore that also became a chance for crowd participation. Willie turned the spotlight on his sister Bobbie (calling her “Little Sister,” even though she’s two years older) for the piano-led instrumental “Down Yonder,” a 1921 piece made famous in 1951 by Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers. Willie paid tribute to a key influence with the Lefty Frizzell gem “If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time),” before moving into a back-to-back medley of his own iconic country tunes “Funny How Time Slips Away” (a hit for Billy Walker), “Crazy” (Patsy Cline) and “Night Life” (Ray Price) – adding a snippet of “Jingle Bells” at the end. Bobbie took the spotlight again for a jaunty rendition of Euday L. Bowman’s “Twelfth Street Rag,” one of the bestsellers of the ragtime era.

Willie then stopped by his most recent album with a light, jazzy take on the Sinatra standard “Fly Me to the Moon,” driven in part by brotherly drummers Paul and Billy English and bassist Kevin Smith, still the new guy six years into his tenure. Willie continued tributing fallen idols, declaiming “Let’s do one for Merle!” to preface “It’s All Going to Pot,” from Django & Jimmie, his 2015 duet album with the late Merle Haggard. Keeping the smoky double entendres going, Willie and band essayed “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” clearly an audience favorite. He reminded us of his estimable guitar skills with the Django Reinhardt instrumental “Nuages,” before hopping onto Tom T. Hall’s “Shoeshine Man,” a showcase for the Family, particularly Bobbie and harmonica master Mickey Raphael. He then sang another classic American song – Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia (On My Mind),” a song surely co-owned by both Willie and its most famous interpreter Ray Charles. He paid tribute to another one of his peers with a rollicking take on his old pal Billy Joe Shaver’s “Georgia On a Fast Train.” Then it was back to Waylon for the crowd-pleaser “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” He also dug back into his own classic catalog for the luminously beautiful “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground.”

The tempo picked back up for the audience-enhanced “On the Road Again,” which would be Willie’s signature song if he didn’t have a dozen of those already. To say the crowd went wild was an understatement. He then brought the mood back down to “lovely” with “Always On My Mind,” his hit ballad originally associated with Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley, but forever, and properly, associated with Nelson. Then it was time for more audience participation with the folk/gospel/bluegrass classics “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away,” tunes that have been in Willie’s repertoire for decades. “Thank you, Austin City Limits!” Willie exclaimed, tossing his bandana into the crowd as he exited the stage to the Family continuing to jam, sending the pumped crowd gently into the good night. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it on your local PBS station early next year.

New tapings: Willie Nelson and August Greene

photo by David McClister

Austin City Limits is proud to announce the final two tapings of Season 44 – one with an old friend and the other featuring some new ones. On November 19, we welcome back an American music icon: Willie Nelson, who anchored the pilot episode of ACL back in 1975, returns for his eighteenth appearance on the program and his first headlining appearance in almost a decade. We’re also thrilled to report that this highly-anticipated homecoming will be live streamed worldwide direct from the ACL stage. On November 26, we open the stage for the first time to supergroup August Greene, the collective of rap superstar Common, jazz keyboardist/producer Robert Glasper and drummer/producer Karriem Riggins.

With a seven-decade career and two hundred-plus albums, Willie Nelson needs no introduction. A bronze statue of Nelson at the entrance to ACL’s studio home on the Austin street that bears his name, honors the Texas native.  He spearheaded the Outlaw country movement in the 1970s, and has since become a musical and cultural treasure whose artistic vision has held steady for over half a century. Inducted into the ACL Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2014, the Red Headed Stranger has earned every conceivable award as a musician and amassed reputable credentials as an author, actor, and activist.  With a staggering legacy of classic songs and enduring influence, the 85-year-old continues to tour regularly throughout North America. In recent years, he has delivered more than then twelve new album releases, released a Top 10 New York Times’ bestseller, again headlined Farm Aid (an event he co-founded in 1985), received his 5th degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul, headlined the last three years of the on-going Luck Reunion food and music festival during SXSW at his ranch in Luck, TX, announced the launch of his cannabis company Willie’s Reserve, and graced the cover of Rolling Stone. In 2015, the Library of Congress honored him with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song for his contributions to music – the first country artist ever to receive the distinguished award. 2016 brought the releases of the Grammy-winning Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, which debuted at #1 on both the Top Current Jazz chart and the Top Traditional Jazz chart, and For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price, an album of newly recorded interpretations.  Nelson also released Pretty Paper, a novel inspired by his classic holiday song of the same title. In 2017, he released God’s Problem Child, an album with thirteen new songs that debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Country album chart and #10 on the Billboard 200. Nelson continues his restless streak in 2018 releasing two LPs: the all-originals Last Man Standing and My Way, a collection of songs associated with Frank Sinatra. Nelson released a new single, “Vote ‘Em Out,” this October urging citizens across the country to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.  We are honored to welcome Willie Nelson back to “the house that Willie built” to carve his name in the ACL stage once again.

photo by B+

In early 2016, musicians and friends Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins found themselves in the studio, crafting the soulful backdrop of Common’s eleventh album Black America Again.  “It was such a real form of expression,” says Common. “It felt natural. We all have an affinity for great music.” As the trio created, they began to notice something different taking shape—something rooted in the warm R&B sounds of yesteryear but still very much in the present. It was soul music with a modern bounce, a jazz-rap hybrid in the spirit of A Tribe Called Quest. It fully encapsulated the black experience: the serenity and pain through which we channel gorgeous art, the beauty and struggle of simply trying to exist. Equally peaceful and profound, the music they captured laid the foundation for August Greene. The artists come to this project having reached major respective milestones over the years. Since 1992, the Chicago-born, Grammy-, Emmy- and Oscar-winning Common has uplifted listeners with his emotive blend of hip-hop and soul, releasing some of the genre’s greatest work. The four-time Grammy-winning Glasper, a Houston-born pianist/producer known for his esoteric mix of jazz, rock and soul, has long created music that defies expectation. Riggins, a Detroit native, is a world renowned percussionist and producer whose work can be heard on many modern recordings, including the Emmy-winning “Letter to the Free,” his collaboration with Common and Glasper for Selma director Ava Duvernay’s acclaimed documentary 13th. Featuring the singles “Black Kennedy” and “Optimistic,” which guest-stars R&B great Brandy, August Greene culminates years of mutual respect and friendship, channeling the musicians’ various talents into a cohesive project. The perfect marriage of jazz, hip-hop and soul, it’s music that just is, speaking to those pushing through the dark for brighter days, and a masterpiece from which virtue can shine.

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. The broadcast versions will air on PBS in early 2019 as part of our Season 44.

Brandi Carlile brings uplift to ACL Season 44

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents acclaimed singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile in a sparkling new hour. Carlile showcases her acclaimed By The Way, I Forgive You, her sixth studio album and a career high point, which has earned “Best of 2018” raves at NPR, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard and more.  The Seattle area native delivers a radiant performance marking her first return to the ACL stage since her 2010 debut in Season 36.  An outspoken social activist, Carlile dedicates her hit anthem “The Joke” to the marginalized, saying “This is a song for anybody that feels unloved or unaccepted or unnatural or illegal.” Joined by her longtime bandmates and songwriting partners Tim and Phil Hanseroth—twin brothers on guitar and bass—and augmented by a string quartet, the hour is an emotional tour de force.  She introduces “Most Of All” saying “We’re gonna sing you a song about your first love—your parents,” in a gorgeous salute to acceptance in family dynamics.  A set highlight is a solo acoustic version of “The Mother,” a poignant song that grapples with her recent entry into motherhood with signature frankness, featuring a surprise onstage visit from her 4-year-old daughter.  Carlile closes the cathartic hour on piano with the declaration of love, “Party Of One;” a blissful show stopper as the strings play her offstage.

“Brandi Carlile has that uncanny ability to channel universal emotions that are part of life’s highs and lows into a song,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Her voice alone is like a salve that soothes. Her performance on this show is nothing short of uplifting!”

photo by Scott Newton

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. Join us next week for a brand new episode featuring contemporary R&B artists Miguel and Alessia Cara.

ACL Hall of Fame 2018 taping an emotional, exciting evening

Marcia Ball and Irma Thomas, HOF 2018; photo by Gary Miller

It goes without saying that an ACL Hall of Fame taping is something special. The combination of ACL greats being saluted by their peers and fans always makes for an emotional, exciting evening. For the HOF’s fifth anniversary, we were privileged to honor Austin blues icon Marcia Ball, East L.A. rock pioneers Los Lobos and the late American music giant Ray Charles. With an all-star roster of talent to celebrate these tremendous artists’ work, it’s no wonder the Hall of Fame is something we look forward to every year.

Following a delightful set of tunes from Austin’s own Mariachi Los Toros and remarks from KLRU-TV CEO Bill Stotesbery and ACL executive producer Terry Lickona, host Chris Isaak took the stage to introduce the first honoree: singing/songwriting/piano-pounding ATX veteran Marcia Ball. Inducted by her longtime friend and collaborator Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Ball gave a lovely speech that paid tribute to her inspirations (including Thomas), her family and band, and music charities HAAM, HOME and SIMS. She took her seat behind the piano and introduced Thomas and singer Tracy Nelson. Together the trio reprised their 1998 appearance on ACL with the joyful “Sing It,” the title track from their Grammy-nominated collaboration of the same name. The threesome went back to the blues for the shuffling “I Want to Do Everything For You,” from the same record. Ball then brought up her old friend and Austin treasure Lou Ann Barton, along with next-generation blues singers Shelley King and Carolyn Wonderland. Together the sextet paid tribute to Dreams Come True, the 1990 album Ball and Barton made with the sadly absent Angela Strehli, rolling through Ike Turner’s classic “Fool in Love.” Ball, King, Wonderland, Nelson and Thomas closed out the segment with the funky, uplifting “Shine Bright,” the title tune to Ball’s latest record, and proof that she’s as vital an artist now as she’s ever been.

Gary Clark Jr., Shelley King, Carolyn Wonderland and Ruthie Foster pay tribute to Ray Charles at HOF 2018; photo by Gary Miller

One quick set change later, Chris Isaak returned to introduce the next inductee, “one of the most important music artists in American music history,” the late, great Ray Charles. The genre-defiant musical giant nicknamed the Genius was inducted by Concord Records president John Burk, who produced Charles’ final album Genius Loves Company and told the story of proposing that album to Charles in his office. Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation, accepted the award as the house band and Norah Jones took the stage. Joined by former Ray Charles Orchestra keyboardist and musical director Dr. James Polk, the ivories-tickling singer opened with the quietly dramatic ballad “Seven Spanish Angels,” originally recorded in 1984 as a duet between Charles and Willie Nelson. Jones then reached back three decades to the mid-fifties for the blues ballad “What Would I Do Without You,” one of her favorite Charles tunes. Host Isaak came on to gracefully sing one of Charles’ iconic recordings: Don Gibson’s classic country tune “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Two of Austin’s own rounded out the tribute. Equally genre-agnostic singer and songwriter Ruthie Foster put her remarkable voice to the service of “Georgia On My Mind,” Hoagy Carmichael’s immortal standard that will forever be associated with Charles – though Foster’s gospel-influenced reading gave the master a run for his money. Foster remained onstage, joined by Carolyn Wonderland and Shelley King, to back up blues rock star Gary Clark Jr., eschewing his trademark guitar slinging for a swaggering take on the sizzling “(Night Time is) the Right Time.” Isaak returned to praise house band director Lloyd Maines, who introduced the ACL All-Stars: guitarist David Grissom, organist Red Young, hornmen John Mills, Jon Blondell, Eric Burnheart and Adrian Ruiz, bassist Bill Whitbeck and drummer Tom Van Schaik.

Following an intermission, Isaak returned to introduce the night’s final honoree: one of America’s greatest, most versatile rock & roll bands, Los Lobos. Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez inducted the band, telling the story of how they scored his movie Desperado. Accepting the award, David Hidalgo talked about how the Austin musical royalty of the early eighties welcomed them to town. Then it was time for Los Lobos to do what it does best, as they picked up their instruments and launched right into “Will the Wolf Survive,” the song that took the rock underground by storm in 1984. Steel guitar master Robert Randolph then came on stage for “Don’t Worry Baby,” the blazing blues rocker that opens Lobos’ first album and a standard of their shows since. The band donned acoustic instruments for one of their catalog highlights – the title track of La Pistola y El Corazón, the group’s tribute to its Mexican-American roots. Then came what may have been a surprise to Los Lobos’ fanbase, as singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs arrived to join the band to add vocals and guitar to “Hearts of Stone,” a groovy, soulful Lobos classic.

Los Lobos, Boz Scaggs, Robert Rodriguez close HOF 2018 with “La Bamba”; photo by Gary Miller

Of course, Los Lobos couldn’t leave the stage without playing their biggest hit. But they didn’t do it alone, inviting all the night’s performers, plus Rodriguez and guitarist Adrian Quesada, up for a rousing “La Bamba,” with a big rock ending and plenty of streamers. You couldn’t ask for a better ending than that, and we can’t wait for you to see it when the ACL Hall of Fame 2018 Special airs on New Year’s Eve on your local PBS station.

Arctic Monkeys chase superstardom on debut ACL taping

photo by Scott Newton

Arctic Monkeys are certified superstars in their home country. While the Sheffield UK band isn’t quite that big here, they’re no slouches, as their massive radio hit “Do I Wanna Know?” and their set at this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival attest. If we were clairvoyant, we’d say American superstardom is just around the corner for the Monkeys. So we were excited to host them for the first time, especially in light of their acclaimed sixth album Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino.

Augmented by four auxiliary musicians, the quartet took the stage and went into “Four Out of Five,” from Casino. The harmony-heavy glam pop tune led into the familiar, riff-rocking pound of “Do I Wanna Know?,” a clear audience favorite. But the same could be said for “Crying Lightning,” a dramatic Humbug cut that earned cheers as soon as the first notes rang out. Leader Alex Turner sat down at the piano for “505,” an intricate song from the band’s debut Favorite Worst Nightmare, which was immediately followed by a crunchy instrumental jam. That segued directly into the title track of Casino, which brought the sound back to “505.” Next up was “One Point Perspective,” a tune that blended elements of Paul McCartney, David Bowie and orchestral pop with the Monkeys’ own je ne sais quoi for a song that couldn’t be by anyone else. Turner moved to the organ for “American Sports,” driven by the leader’s rolling keyboard riff.

Turner abandoned instruments entirely for “Cornerstone,” reveling in the persona of a rock & roll crooner for the loquacious ballad. Acoustic guitar in hand, he led the band through the midtempo pop of “No. 1 Party Anthem,” a nod to the world-weary side of the British glam rock years. The Monkeys kept that vibe going for “Knee Socks,” a subtly funky rocker with just a hint of menace. Once again indulging his 70s Bowie jones, Turner took the mic and belted “The Ultracheese” as if it was the sequel to “Life On Mars.” Back at the piano, Turner took the Monkeys to the cabaret, giving the ballad its own Arctic twist. The band ended the set with the hard-rocking “R U Mine?,” a sort of aggressive sequel to “Do You Wanna Know?” It was the perfect blast to end the show, as the audience’s loud approval showed. It was a nicely rocking set, which we can’t wait for you to see when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.   

Janelle Monae brings 4-act masterpiece to ACL

photo by Scott Newton

If there’s proof you can be a superstar and a restless innovator, it resides in the art and life of Janelle Monáe. The Atlanta-based singer, songwriter, producer, actor and label owner was proclaimed a star right out of the box with her debut album The ArchAndroid, and her stock has done nothing but rise since. Following two renowned LPs and breakout roles in the Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures and Oscar-winning Moonlight, Monáe hit the music world like a freight train with the wildly lauded Dirty Computer, a major statement on community and inclusion and her most successful album yet. We were thrilled to host her acclaimed four-act masterpiece that is the Dirty Computer tour.

The band took the stage to the strains of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” before launching into the title track of Dirty Computer. The scene thus set, Monáe herself climbed the white pyramid at center stage for “Crazy, Classic, Life,” a song that lays out her philosophy and invites everyone to join in. Donning a guitar, she chunked out the chords to “Screwed,” a catchy funk/pop tune that conflates the act of sex with the exercise of power. Changing her costume onstage in front of a mirror held by a dancer (a nice homage to the futuristic funk of The Time), Monáe ascended the throne that appeared at the top of the pyramid for “Django Jane,” a fiercely rapped anthem of empowerment for weirdos everywhere. The lights went down for a minute as the four dancers changed costume; when illumination returned, it was to the tune of “Q.U.E.E.N.,” from her sophomore record The Electric Lady. That was followed by the title track from that LP, which became a call-and-response singalong with the electric ladies in the audience, who knew every word. After letting the crowd know that they were loved, Monáe eased into “Primetime,” a positive power ballad that guitarist Kellindo Parker morphed into the ending solo of key Monáe influence Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

After a break, bassist Téja Veal and keyboardist Krystal Johnson broke out the keytars and Monáe and her dancers came out for the catchy funk rock of “Pynk,” her infamous ode to human anatomy. While that song is as much about the color all people have in common inside as anything more lascivious, there was no mistaking the erotic vibe of “Yoga,” her 2015 single with rapper Jidenna. “We’re here to celebrate self love,” she declared, but before anyone could get the wrong idea, she followed that sentiment with “I Like That,” a song about self-acceptance that became another communion between performer and audience. The stage darkened once again, before everyone returned for a redo of “Pynk.” One more quick interlude later, and it was on to the awesomely hooky “Make Me Feel,” a sensual bit of stripped-down funk with nods to Michael Jackson (who inspired Monáe’s shadow dancing during the intro), Prince (who helped create sounds for the song before his untimely death) and James Brown (bits of whose “I Got the Feeling” made sporadic appearances). The funk kept roiling with “I Got the Juice,” yet another highlight from Dirty Computer that became a showcase not only for her dancers, but select members of the audience Monáe invited to show off their juice. The dancing kept going as the lights went down, the spotlight came up, and Monáe returned to redo her silhouette dance and the rest of “Make Me Feel.”  

Monáe and band returned to remind the audience that her work celebrates inclusion, empowerment and the fight for the rights of those unfairly pushed to the margins. “I come in peace,” she explained, “but I mean business.” To underscore the point, she ended the main set with an extended “Tightrope,” the rocking soul tune that was a highlight of her debut. But that was not, of course, the end. Egged on by enthusiastic applause, Monáe and the band returned for the rollicking “Come Alive (War of the Roses),” which blazed across the stage, heavy on audience participation, before the star danced her way through the crowd itself. It was an incredible end to a show like no other that’s ever graced the Austin City Limits stage, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this season on your local PBS station.

Residente brings the music of the world to ACL

photo by Scott Newton

It’s not every day that an artist records an album inspired by a DNA test. But that’s just what Puerto Rican superstar Residente did. Energized by discovering that his genetics came from literally all over the world, the former Calle 13 co-founder traveled to France, China, Russia, Spain, England, Africa, the United States and more to record his smash self-titled LP. The erstwhile René Juan Pérez Joglar brought this incredible range of sounds to his debut ACL taping for a show that made the crowd dance and think at the same time.

Residente’s seven-piece band took the stage first with “Intro ADN/DNA,” mixing Latin, African and Arabic music with rock guitar and electronica to hint at the incredible range of the music to come. The man himself came out rocking with “Somos Anormales,” the explosive opening cut from his solo album. He then dipped into the Calle 13 catalog, adapting “Bailes De Los Pobres” and “El Aguante” to his current worldbeat-driven style – how many other rappers prominently feature instruments like oud and dumbek? “We like to include everyone, not exclude anyone,” Residente explained about going back and forth between English and Spanish – a philosophy that translates to his musical vision as well. Things slowed down for that rarest of things in hip-hop: a ballad. “Desencuentro” began with a jazzy piano solo courtesy keyboardist Leo Genovese (who previously visited the ACL stage with Esperanza Spalding), evolving into a duet between Residente and singer Kiani Medina and ending with a lighter-waving guitar solo from Elias Meister. Switching gears dramatically, Residente and band brought the rock side back to the fore for the angry “Calma Pueblo,” which the vocalist dedicated to “the motherfuckers of the music business.”  

Explaining the concept of his solo album, Residente introduced “Dagombas El Tamale,” a song based around the vocal and percussion styles of the African nation of Ghana. “Adentro,” a dis track aimed at gangsta rappers, followed, before the band went back to Africa for “La Sombra,” recorded with Nigerian guitarist Bombino and filled out by Meister and co-axeslinger Justin Purtill onstage. The rapper shouted out the resistance – but, pointedly, not the use of violence – for “Guerra,” a track that ended in an explosion from the guitarists, Genovese, percussionists Daniel Diaz and Brahim Fribgane and ex-Mars Volta/Suicidal Tendencies drummer Thomas Pridgen. “Latinoamérica,” a beautiful tribute to Residente’s region of the world, began with virtuoso acoustic guitar picking from Purtill before flowing into vocal trade-offs between the leader and Medina. The energy level shot back up for “Apocalíptico,” a dramatic track inspired by the Chinese landscape in which it was recorded.

As the song drifted into ambience, Residente quit the stage, but the break was brief. The rapper returned with the Calle 13 tune “La Vuelta Al Mundo,” an especially groovy number with lush synth work from Genovese. Fribgane kicked off  “El Futuro Es Nuestro” with an expert oud solo, introing recorded with Bosnian singer Goran Bregović, but blew the doors off in good hands here. After the world travels of the rest of the show, Residente brought it back to Latin America for “Atrévete-Te-Te,” Calle 13’s irresistibly danceable barnburner from its debut album. It was an incredible ending to an incredible show, the most internationally diverse since Manu Chao a decade ago. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.