Florence Welch returned to the Austin City Limits Stage last night for the first time since 2011. Since that first taping Florence and The Machine have become superstars with a multitude of hits that are inescapable on radio, television and in films. Welch walked put on to the stage barefoot and blew the crowd away from the start with "What the Water Gave Me" leading into the huge hit "Ship to Wreck". You can tell television isn't her comfort zone and she made it a point to get the audience to stand and be involved in the show throughout the night despite the limitations of being recorded. She performed the Grammy nominated "Shake It Out" as well as the title track for her current album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful where she commented on the recording of the album and how it taught her "not just to love just one person, but everyone and everything". She closed out the evening while encouraging the crowd to climb on each others shoulders and finishing with her hugest hits "You've Got The Love" and "Dog Days Are Over". Between songs she had everyone in the crowd hug one another and wave and it was very genuine. It was powerful and her connection with the crowd is so rare. The taping will air on PBS this fall as part of season 42 of Austin City Limits.
Seeing My Morning Jacket return to the ACL stage was pretty special for me. In 2008 I was fortunate enough to attend my very first Austin City Limits taping when they were still at the original studio on west campus. I was a casual fan up to that point but seeing them in such an intimate setting solidified them as a essential for me from then on out. Jim James has performed on the program numerous times over the years in different projects (Monsters of Folk, Solo, etc) but it was exciting to see the full band return coming off a successful run at New Orleans Jazz Fest. The bands set consisted of songs mostly from their most recent albums Circuital and The Waterfall and definitely strayed from the traditional sets die hard MMJ fans are used to. Not entirely a bad thing. After returning the stage for and epic five song encore the band finished the show with "Magheetah" and the guitar solos the band is know for. The full episode will air this fall as part of Season 42 of Austin City Limits on PBS.
Keeping the audience at a distance is not exactly Nick Cave's style so I was very curious to see how an Austin City Limits taping was going to go down leading up to the show. Walking in to the venue one of the most notable differences about this taping was the stage set up. Instead of the set up with cameras up front like a traditional television show there were pillars leading out into the crowd and the cameras set up in the back of the audience. Obviously Mr. Cave was not going to compromise on the strongest asset of his live performance and I seized the opportunity to plant myself by one of those pillars knowing that it would be prime real estate once the performance began.
The band entered the stage with the brooding "We Real Cool", one of the few somber moments of the evening. From there they burst to life with "Tupelo" which lead to Cave running from each side of the stage and from there it didn't let up. The term preacher is often used to describe Cave and it is with good reason. Once the performance took off it didn't matter if you were a die hard fan or someone that scored a ticket and wanted to check it out, you were all in. His performance is captivating and he has more charisma than his brooding reputation would suggest. Cave's enthusiasm is fueled by the audience and he yelled for the seated portion of the crowd to join him on more than one occasion going so far as to call them a "lazy fuckers". He had no plans to censor himself for the taping like some artists tend to do and that was most apparent when he moved on to "Stagger Lee" which is not exactly the kind of song you would see on public television and apparently caused some of the older folks in the crowd to call it a night.
It didn't matter by then because the rest of the crowd was worked up and easily one of the most energetic I have ever seen at a taping. Around the 90 min mark Cave finished with the beautiful title track off his latest "Push The Sky Away" and with that the night ended in the brooding manner it began and the man was gone. An encore was expected when the stage crew began to set up for one but those hopes were quickly dashed and the house lights came up. You will be able to watch this epic performance this fall when Austin City Limits kicks off it's 40th season.
Set List: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Austin City Limits
We Real Cool
Red Right Hand
From Her To Eternity
God Is In The House
Higgs Boson Blues
The Mercy Seat
Push The Sky Away
I finally made amends with Phoenix last night....
Having been a fan of the group for quite a few years I found myself exhausted with them by the time they played Stubb's for what felt like the 100th time a couple of years ago and if I had to listen to "1901" one more time I probably would have gone crazy. I guess it's pretty cliche but their success kind of soured me. Going into the show I was excited but not excited as you are supposed to be when seeing such a good band in such an intimate setting.
From the moment they opened with "Entertainment" you could tell that it was going to be a special performance. They wasted no time from there moving into material from their breakthrough, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, with Lasso, Lisztomania and Fences, which even I appreciated after taking a time away from listening.
The band was energetic and bold throughout the evening declaring “When you’re on tour, you play places where bands have been before, and you feel part of a tradition, and tonight it’s sort of the ultimate, the pinnacle moment, We’re very proud to be doing this ACL TV show, and we’re proud that you’re doing this with us – we feel like we’re keeping Austin weird.”
There were instrumentals that were riveting and several occasions where lead singer Thomas Mars ran into the crowd that made not only for an amazing performance but what I can only expect will be very interesting television. By the time they finished up with "Rome", Mars had climbed the rafters onto the second floor of ACL Live and was thanking everyone he came in contact with.
I have to admit that I would have never guessed that it would be one my favorite ACL tapings but that is exactly what it was. In terms of hugely successful "pop" bands we can (and often do) so much worse than Phoenix.