If there was any doubt Stevie Wonder was headliner material at Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL Fest) this year, the performer quickly put those to rest by making a dramatic entrance Saturday night at Zilker Park. The 61-year old, blind, pop musical genius made his entrance holding a keytar while he walked on stage, a funky intro emanating out of Wonder’s intstrument. He proceeded to the mic on stage right and began belting out Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is”.
The performance got better from that point as Wonder led a masterful band through a crowd-pleasing 22 song set that included “Higher Ground”, “Sir Duke” and “Superstition”. At one point, Wonder was on the ground, kneeling while playing his keytar, working his hips suggestively. If he has lost any of his youthful enthusiasm, Mr. Wonder certainly does not show it.
The band included two drummers, four backup singers, a guitarist, saxophonist and a trumpet player. Wonder orchestrated the set like the veteran performer that he is. He sang, covered Michael Jackson, spoke of gun control, bad politics, education and love and played piano and keyboards throughout the set.
See the full setlist via setlist.fm below:
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Marvin Gaye cover)
My Eyes Don’t Cry
Master Blaster (Jammin’)
The Way You Make Me Feel
(Michael Jackson cover)
Living for the City
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing
When I Fall in Love (Nat King Cole cover)
Ribbon In The Sky
Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
Do I Do
For Once In My Life
My Cherie Amour
I Just Called to Say I Love You
Check on Your Love
Isn’t She Lovely (partial)
Fever (Little Willie John cover) (partial)
A close second to Wonder’s masterful headlining set was Fitz and the Tantrums at the Honda Stage. The Neo-soul band from Los Angeles brought a high-energy show that seemed to stave off the thundershower that threatened moments before showtime with pure effort and grit. The soul sound is bolstered by saxophonist, James King who adds authenticity with his brassy solos. Backup singer Noelle Skaggs knows how to work the crowd while frontman Michael Fitzpatrick leaps about the stage. In all it was a completely satisfying set.
Friday we saw a bit of Chancellor Warhol while backstage at the BMI Stage and liked what we saw so much, we got up early to see them again Sunday at the Do 512 Lounge. Although the Nashville hip-hop artist played a short, three song set, it was delivered well. There is just enough quirkyness to sound original while staying true to the hip-hop creedo of MCing to pounding bass. Both shows encouraged responsive audiences. Chancellor Warhol is our surpise find this festival, We would not have guessed a hip-hop artist from Nashville could sway us, but there it is.
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