The Revivalists saluted the Foo Fighters at Saturday’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival by covering “Times Like These.”
But they didn’t make people cry like Stevie Nicks did by dedicating the bittersweet ballad “Landslide” to her friend Taylor Hawkins, the late drummer of the Foo Fighters.
That extremely intimate moment took place in front of a huge crowd on the main festival stage. The crowd was even closer than the crowd watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers are filling in for the Foo Fighters at the Fair Grounds last Sunday, even on the dirt road.
Maybe it was a low-key question. Nicks first performed at the festival with Fleetwood Mac in 2013. Fleetwood Mac would replace the Rolling Stones in 2019, to bow as well.
Then Nicks was booked for both the 2020 and 2021 Jazz Fests, which were sunk by the pandemic. She finally made it to the festival on a warm, sunny Saturday.
Rory Block, Samantha Fish
Saturday’s program was dominated by female performers.
Rory Block grew up as a student of the blues. In the Blues Tent, the 72-year-old sat alone with a guitar and the ghosts of long-gone blues guitarists. She told stories about and revisited the songs of Muddy Waters, Son House, Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson in her country blues style. She plucked and pulled the guitar strings with force, but her whole show had to be louder. Her song introductions and stories were mostly inaudible in the back of the tent, and even much of her guitar work was lost.
Volume was not an issue for Samantha Fish. Dressed in bold white and black stripes on the festival stage, she and a muscular three-piece band drifted through a range of blues-rock purpose-built for big stages.
Blue skies and blistering music greet music fans at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Saturday, May 7, 2022.
Since three calendar years have passed since the last Jazz Fest, she played a song that expressed her feeling: “Hello, stranger, it seems so good to see you again / How long has it been / Seems like a very long time.”
She delivered one solid guitar solo after another on a succession of electric guitars, while her band’s keyboardist filled in arrangements controlled by the band’s drummer. In ‘Better Be Lonely’ Fish’ solo followed the melody of the song. Elsewhere, she cut bluesy tones and gritty riffs, in full command.
Rickie Lee Jones goes local
Rickie Lee Jones, a New Orleans native of recent vintage, has been waiting to play at Jazz Fest. On the Shell Gentilly Stage, she and an ensemble, anchored by drummer, percussionist and vibraphonist Mike Dillon, entered the set.
That set took off with “Young Blood.” All poetry and playfulness, her voice skated over the keyboards and horns. She strummed an acoustic guitar for “Chuck E’s in Love” while Dillon’s percussion provided structure. On the way to the chorus, the horn section of local jazz funk band Naughty Professor gave the arrangement a Van Morrison feel.
Jones switched to grand piano for the title track “Pirates”. In Danny’s All Star Joint, she sang coffee and coins and butcher’s knives and a chicken-in-a-pot over a jazzy electric bass.
On the day before Mother’s Day, she celebrated motherhood. She was focused but clearly having fun. As her 2021 memoir “Last Chance Texaco” made clear, she’s lived a remarkable life, with extreme highs and lows, but is comfortable where she is now: “It’s nice to have lived so long to to have a history with great musicians.”
Daigle, Badu, Nicks bring it home
Saturday’s female headliners included Mavis Staples filling in for Melissa Etheridge at the Blues Tent. †The Zac Brown Band will replace Willie Nelson on Sunday.) Erykah Badu cast her spiritual soul sister spell in front of a large crowd on the Congo Square Stage.
A relatively modest audience witnessed Lauren Daigle, the contemporary Christian pop star from Lafayette, on the Gentilly Stage; it was much smaller than Elvis Costello’s crowd the previous night.
Covered in glitter and sporting a fabulous hat, Daigle welcomed Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and members of the Wild Magnolias and the Black Hatchet Mardi Gras Indian tribe to help out on “Hey Pocky Way”. Daigle pronounced a blessing through her hit ballad ‘You Say’.
On the other side of the Fair Grounds, Nicks opened her first show in nearly three years with “Outside the Rain.” “I watched miniseries at home, wore really comfortable pants and taught my dog how to shake hands,” she said of her pandemic activities. “He hasn’t quite figured it out yet.”
Nicks went back to work, flipping through Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and her own “Enchanted” and “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”, with guitarist Waddy Wachtel also lending his voice to the latter. Between “Gypsy” and “Rhiannon”, she showed off the original cape she wore on the cover of the 1981 album “Belladonna”, part of a multi-layered ensemble she wore in spite of the heat of the day.
All the familiar features of her voice were there. She prefaced “Landslide” with, “Taylor, this song is for you.” Set against Wachtel’s acoustic guitar accompaniment, she stroked lyrics like “I’ve been afraid to change, for I’ve built my life around you / But time makes you bolder, even kids get older / And I’m getting older too,” who took on a different meaning with regard to Hawkins.
A sustained “boom, boom” swore and distracted her during the show. She couldn’t locate the source, but it may have been the bass from Badu’s stage.
Yet she expressed herself. She covered Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'”, another tribute to a fallen friend. She revived “New Orleans,” a song she wrote after Hurricane Katrina.
Her finale was a load by Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Indeed, it had been a long time since Nicks rocked and rolled.
“It was a journey,” a relieved Nicks said of her show on Saturday.
A journey that ended in front of a dizzying crowd at Jazz Fest.
Note: This story has been updated.
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