“[D’Angelo’s debut album] Brown Sugar changed my life in ways I never thought possible”, said Dallas Green as City and Colour took the Mojo stage through a fan-pleasing set on Good Friday, hyping up the Saturday headline slot from the neo-soul pioneer even more. This resulted in D’Angelo’s scheduled two-hour performance being delivered to a capacity crowd, an electrifying atmosphere which seemed to encourage D’Angelo and his band, The Vanguard, to give Bluesfest – the last show on their Australian tour – a set no one in attendance is likely to ever forget. Closing song “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” was given a solid 15 minutes of build up and release, stunning in execution with a beautiful ending as, one by one, each band member would take their exit, peeling back the layers of this live version until it was just D’Angelo on stage, behind his piano, encouraging the crowd to harmonise with him. It was an incredible way to cap off a day full of outstanding sets from soul, or soul-influenced, acts from Allen Stone to Australia’s very own Hiatus Kaiyote.
Stone performed an early afternoon set at the Crossroads stage, playful and involving, driven by his extraordinary voice which would, in the higher notes, invoke Stevie Wonder, presenting us with a strong voice full of vigor that would often reach far beyond the tent and draw even more people in. By the time Stone closed his set with “Voodoo”, he had attracted one of the biggest crowds for that time slot so far this weekend. He also gave us one of our best covers of the day, with a version of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” dripping in gorgeous bluesy soul.
St Paul & The Broken Bones, one of the weekend’s most talked about acts, continued the vibe at Crossroads, pulling out a roaring cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”, a tender version of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, and some new original material that is sounding like some of their best yet.
“It’s been a weird couple of months for us…all you motherfuckers make that bad shit go away”, shouted Jesse Hughes as Eagles of Death Metal brought an earth-shattering and heavy set to the Mojo stage, after which The Decemberists put on a very entertaining, theatrical display of complex musicianship that ended with the epic storytelling masterclass that is “The Mariner’s Revenge Song”, complete with a giant paper maché whale eating the band.
Word of Thursday’s mind-bending arena-jazz vibes of Kamasi Washington and his band, The Next Step, had obviously gotten around the festival as the L.A new-age jazz maestro played to an insatiable crowd – one of the weekend’s largest so far – that would spill outside of the massive tent. His popularity had an obvious effect on the band, as Kamasi gave us a different but no less awesome set, highlighting keyboardist Brandon Coleman, trombonist Ryan Porter, and vocalist Patrice Quinn this time around by giving them each a platform to perform songs they have arranged for the band, with Kamasi on the assist.
Washington even played a little game with the crowd, asking all the budding musicians in the audience to identify the time signature the final song (a new piece that may or may not appear on Kamasi’s next album) was played in, encouraging anyone to take that answer and let him know at his signing immediately after the show to get a special message from him and the band.
It was clear that soul – whether it be fused into jazz, blues, or R&B – was the dominate style of the day here, but that may change for Sunday as Noel Gallagher headlines with his High Flying Birds along with sets from the likes of Modest Mouse, another one from The DecemberistsGraham Nash, and UB40. The Wailers will also be performing iconic record Legend in full on the Jambalaya stage at 6:45pm.
With a huge two days and nights still to come, the AU is going to be bringing you more coverage from Byron Bay in interviews, reviews and photo galleries! Stay tuned and follow #AUxBluesfest on Instagram/Twitter for live updates!
Allen Stone Set List
Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye Cover)
D’Angelo Set List:
Red Hot Mama (Funkadelic Cover)
Feel Like Makin’ Love
Left & Right
Untitled (How Does It Feel)
Headline image: Allen Stone, shot by Andrew Wade for the AU review.