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R.I.P. Lyle Mays of the Pat Metheny Group

Austin City Limits is disheartened to learn of the death of Pat Metheny Group keyboardist Lyle Mays, who died at age 66 in Los Angeles on Feb. 10 after a recurring illness. 

Born in Wisconsin to musician parents, Mays studied piano and organ from an early age. After graduating from the University of North Texas, where he’d composed and arranged for the college’s famous One O’Clock Lab Band, Mays joined clarinetist Woody Herman’s group on the road. He met Pat Metheny in 1974, recording the guitarist’s second album Watercolors with him in 1977 and forming the Pat Metheny Group that same year. As co-writer, producer and arranger, Mays recorded fourteen albums with the band over the course of thirty-plus years, winning eleven Grammy awards along the way. He also performed as a sideman for artists ranging from Joni Mitchell to Earth, Wind & Fire, as well as composing music for theater and children’s records. Mays released five solo albums, including 1993’s Fictionary, a trio record with fellow North Texas alumnus Marc Johnson. After retiring from music following the Metheny Group’s final tour in 2010, the self-taught computer programmer followed his other passion and became a software manager. 

Here is Mays performing “Proof” in 2003 with the Pat Metheny Group on Austin City Limits

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R.I.P. Joseph Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo

We here at Austin City Limits are saddened to learn of the death of singer and teacher Joseph Shabalala, founder of South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who appeared on ACL in 2006. He was 78.

He was born Bhekizizwe Joseph Siphatimandla Mxoveni Mshengu Bigboy Shabalala in 1941 in the town of Ladysmith (eMnambithi district) in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. In the late fifties he joined the Durban Choir, leaving them two years later when they refused to perform his original songs. He founded his own isicathamiya group the Blacks in 1959, renaming them Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1960. The group signed a recording contract in 1972, selling 40,000 copies of their first album Amabutho, making it South Africa’s first gold-selling record. Ladysmith Black Mambazo continued to be popular in its home country, but gained international fame after appearing on singer/songwriter Paul Simon’s Grammy-winning 1986 LP Graceland, specifically the songs “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes” and “Homeless,” which Shabalala co-wrote. The group won its first Grammy in 1988 for its album Shaka Zulu, winning four more over the course of a long – and ongoing – international career. Shabalala retired from performance with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 2014, continuing to teach choral music until his death. 

Here is Shabalala on Austin City Limits in 2006, closing out the night’s performance with “Phansi.”  

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Rosalía invigorates ACL’s season 45 finale

Austin City Limits closes out Season 45 with a spectacular full-hour performance showcasing celebrated Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía in her ACL debut. The globally praised Flamenco-fusion artist has taken the music world by storm, winning her first Grammy Award and five Latin Grammys while also garnering the first-ever Best New Artist Grammy nomination for a principally Spanish language artist.

Catapulted to global stardom with chart-topping Spanish language hits, Rosalía lights up the ACL stage in an irresistible hour, filled with songs from her acclaimed 2020 Grammy-winning El Mal Querer album, which also led the field of winners at this year’s Latin Grammy Awards—including the first “Album of the Year” recognition in 13 years for a solo female artist. She dazzles in a stellar 16-song set that showcases her trailblazing fusion of classic flamenco, reggaetón, hip-hop and electronic beats. The captivating red-clad singer, flanked by dancers in sheer red outfits, opens the hour with “Pienso En Tu Mirá,” her emotive vocals augmented by double-time flamenco handclaps and exciting choreography. The 26-year-old Catalan, Spain native puts her hand to her heart as she reacts to enthusiastic cheers from the Austin audience, saying “It means so much to me to be here because I’m very far from where I am from.” Rosalía has revolutionized flamenco, making it accessible for a new generation, and thrills the rapt audience with a passionate, goosebump-inducing a capella version of an early 20th century flamenco classic, “Catalina.” A gifted, expressive singer and dancer, she tilts her head back to unleash her powerful vocal amid rhythmic handclaps and the audience erupts. Rosalía closes out a stunning set with back-to-back showstoppers including the smash international single, “Con Altura,” her chart-topping collaboration with reggaetón star J Balvin (which has racked up more than 1.2 billion views on YouTube, making it 2019’s most-viewed music video by a female artist) and the breakout single “Malamente” that started it all, earning six 2018 Latin Grammy nods, propelling Rosalía from Spanish pop star to international sensation.

“‘Original’ is often a cliché when it’s applied to new music, but there’s no better way to describe Rosalía,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Her impact is profound – blurring all the boundaries between cultures, genres, and generations. She is the future, here today.”

As always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL info. Join us next week for a special encore episode, featuring Americana superstar Brandi Carlile. 

ROSALÍA setlist:




CATALINA (a cappella)













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ACL congratulates the 2020 Grammy winners

Austin City Limits extends our congratulations to our Season 45 ACL performers for their big wins at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards. 

Billie Eilish took top honors last night, taking the trifecta of Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Record of the Year, as well as Best New Artist and Pop Vocal Album of the Year, all thanks to her double platinum debut When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Her brother and creative partner Finneas also won Producer of the Year.) You can watch Billie showcase the LP on ACL in a new full-hour episode premiering Saturday, Feb. 1 on PBS – check your local listings, of course. 

photo by Scott Newton

Season opener Gary Clark Jr. also took home multiple trophies, winning Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance, and Best Contemporary Blues album. Other Season 45 guests with brand new Grammy awards on their shelves include Patty Griffin (Best Folk Album), Cage the Elephant (Best Rock Album), Vampire Weekend (Best Alternative Music Album) and Rosalía (Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album). The Spanish singer/songwriter/dancer will be featured in a full-hour performance in our season finale premiering February 8. 

photo by Scott Newton

We also salute ACL alumni Grammy winners: Tanya Tucker (Best Country Song, co-written by ACL two-timer Brandi Carlile, and Best Country Album – amazingly, her first wins in her decades-long career), Willie Nelson (Best Country Solo Performance), Elvis Costello (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album), Sarah Jarosz and Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins (Best American Roots Song as part of supergroup I’m With Her), Esperanza Spalding (Best Jazz Vocal Album), Rodrigo y Gabriela (Best Contemporary Instrumental Album), Delbert McClinton (Best Traditional Blues Album), Keb’ Mo’ (Best Americana Album), Angelique Kidjo (Best World Music Album), Dolly Parton (sharing the Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance with King and Country) and John Legend (Best Rap/Sung Performance, for “Higher,” his collaboration with DJ Khaled and the late Nipsey Hussle). 

photo by Scott Newton

In addition, beloved singer/songwriter John Prine (saluted by his old friend Bonnie Raitt) and punk rock progenitor Iggy Pop both received Lifetime Achievement Awards for their distinguished service to music. ACL congratulates all the honorees and 2020 Grammy Award winners. 

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Cage The Elephant and Tank and The Bangas galvanize ACL Season 45

Austin City Limits spotlights thrilling live bands in a new installment featuring rock giants Cage The Elephant, one of music’s biggest live acts. The hour also introduces a 2020 “Best New Artist” GRAMMY nominee, New Orleans breakout act Tank and the Bangas. 

Hailing from Kentucky, the Nashville-based six-piece Cage The Elephant perform tracks from their acclaimed fifth album Social Cues, alongside career highlights in a stellar, hit-filled set. Charismatic lead singer/live wire Matt Shultz takes the stage in a signature makeshift outfit: elbow-length blue gloves, blue tights adorned with women’s lace underwear, headphones and goggles. A wardrobe rack and a trunk filled with props sit onstage amidst the amplifiers, as the shape-shifting frontman changes outfits with each song. “It’s a lot of work wearing all these different personalities,” says Shultz, while seamlessly delivering a seven-song set of his ubiquitous alternative-rock hits. Opening with the new wave-heavy smash “Broken Boy,” Shultz, known for his wild antics, stalks the stage in a can’t-look-away performance. Reaching back to 2015’s GRAMMY-winning Tell Me I’m Pretty for “Cold Cold Cold,” Shultz changes into fluorescent yellow fishermen’s gear, and ventures into the audience, sprinting into the bleachers and sliding down the steps backward on his head. Without missing a beat, the hit parade continues with melodic charmer “Trouble,” as the crowd sings along with every word; an iconic slide guitar riff next signals the 2008 breakthrough hit “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” as Shultz dons a fishnet face mask and climbs onto the P.A. for the Cage classic. The band closes out with radio smash “Come a Little Closer,” turned into a raucous, audience participation anthem.

“Matt Shultz takes the prize for the most wardrobe changes in a single show in ACL history,” laughs ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “Who knew? Nobody knows quite what to expect from Cage The Elephant, and that’s a big part of why their fans love them so much.”

photo by Scott Newton

New Orleans five-piece R&B, funk and hip-hop outfit Tank and the Bangas shine in a radiant ACL debut featuring songs from the 2019 major label debut Green Balloon. A unit where jazz meets hip-hop, soul meets rock, and funk is the heartbeat of all they do, this versatile act came together in 2011 at a NOLA open mic event, and got propelled into the national limelight when they unanimously won NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2017. The Big Easy band takes viewers on a handclapping, swaying, joyous ride through its world. Former slam poet and magnetic lead singer Tank Ball shifts from a lilting sing-song to deep and forceful rapping on set opener “Spaceships.” The Bangas keep the music rolling and solos flying as Tank unleashes her powerful vocal on “Ripperton Love,” in tribute to R&B legend Minnie Ripperton. On the soulful meditation “Hot Air Balloon,” Ball explores her elastic voice as the band provides an other-worldly soundscape building to a fiery sax solo. Set-closer “The Brady’s” has it all: sweet harmonies, crashing drums, rock guitar and relentless groove, anchored by Tank’s colorful vocal stylings.

“Tank and the Bangas radiate joy, and their set is nothing but a musical joy ride,” says Lickona. “The world needs Tank and the Bangas more now than ever.”

As always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL info. Join us next week for another new episode, featuring Grammy-nominated pop newcomer Billie Eilish. 

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Mitski and Rainbow Kitten Surprise bring fresh sounds to ACL 45

Austin City Limits showcases a pair of innovators in a captivating double bill: acclaimed indie songwriter and performer Mitski in a rare television performance and eclectic alt-rockers Rainbow Kitten Surprise

Critically acclaimed as the vanguard of indie rock, Japanese-born American Mitski Miyawaki performs songs from her stunning fifth album Be the Cowboy alongside career highlights in her ACL debut. The singer-songwriter pulls the curtain back on her emotionally raw songs in a spellbinding 8-song set backed by her 4-piece band. The innovative artist has a singular performance style that plays out like conceptual art; the stage is set with a white wooden table and chair, basic props that are repurposed as a platform, a screen and a shield as the show unfolds. Wearing black shorts, knee pads and dance shoes, and armed with a stone-cold stare, Mitski moves slowly, deliberately, opening with the passionate, throbbing “I Will,” from her 2014 debut Bury Me At Makeout Creek, climbing atop the prop table victoriously at the song’s climax. With velvety tones and incisive poetry, she raises her voice on love and loneliness, coaxing the rapt audience to enter the darkest parts of her mind, to swirl in her insecurities, to stand at her side as she vanquishes residual longing from love gone wrong. On her knees on the table as guitarist (and longtime producer) Patrick Hyland strums the chords to the anthem “Your Best American Girl,” from her 2016 breakout Puberty 2, Mitski rides the gorgeous swells of sound, whipping her hair, before delivering a gut-wrenching performance of “I Bet on Losing Dogs” that leaves her curled in a fetal position on top of the table. The performance is a meticulously detailed exercise in vulnerability and cathartic release, for one of the most compelling performances ever on the ACL stage.

“Performance is as much a part of Mitski’s show as the songs are – maybe even more so,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “I guarantee that if you’re a longtime fan of ACL,  you’ve neve seen anything quite like this.”

Nashville-based five-piece Rainbow Kitten Surprise formed at Appalachian State University in 2013 and make their ACL debut drawing heavily from their acclaimed third album How To: Friend, Love, Freefall.  Opening with the fan-favorite “Hide,” the song is amplified by singer Sam Melo’s soulful vocals and bitter cries of “You better hide your love!” The high-spirited alt-rockers deliver a blissed-out free-for-all, with charismatic frontman Melo engaging in unpredictable bursts of physical expression, from high kicks to swirling twirls to near-leaps into the crowd and bassist/sparkplug Charlie Holt often mirroring his jumps and dips. This joyful vitality and powerful camaraderie infuse the music’s kaleidoscopic sonic palette with inventive arrangements and indelible melody. Set highlights include “Cocaine Jesus,” augmented by a cappella harmonies and “When It Lands,” an ambitious, multi-movement composition that showcases each member’s talents. Melo is behind the piano as he croons the intro to the dramatic “Holy War,” before retaking the mic at center stage for the tumbling folk of set-closer “Painkillers.” 

photo by Scott Newton

“If you haven’t experienced seeing Rainbow Kitten Surprise, you are missing something in your life,” said Lickona. “The combo of jump kicks, their original electro-folk sound and ghostly harmonies will carry you away to psychedelic Neverland.”

As always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook and Twitter pages or sign up for our newsletter for more ACL info. Join us next week for another new episode, featuring wild-eyed rockers Cage the Elephant and eclectic R&B ensemble Tank & The Bangas.