New Orleans Jazz Fest 2016 Day 3 Sees More Tributes to Prince & David Bowie, Red Hot Chili Peppers Shine

Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs at the 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 24, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  

The third day of the 2016 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival commenced at the Fair Grounds Race Course Sunday (April 24) with sets from gospel royalty CeCe Winans, Louisiana rock vets (Better Than Ezra) and young comers (Royal Teeth), plus still more tributes to the late Prince by Louisiana zydeco artist Corey Ledet, Nick Jonas and J. Cole. Not to mention the biggest set of the day: Red Hot Chili Peppers. Here are the highlights from day three of Jazz Fest 2016 (all times local).

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1:20 p.m. Ten-time Grammy winner CeCe Winans is in the midst of a talk on the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage, set off from Jazz Fest in the Fair Grounds’ grandstands. “We’re living in a time now where [sometimes] people don’t want you to say ‘Jesus,’” Winans said. “Because our country needs it, our children need it, our families need it. We need the love of God. I’m so honored to sing gospel music.” Later, asked about Prince’s death, she said, “I pray for his family. You can’t help but think about so many incredible artists that we’re losing and, to me, they’re leaving before their time… I just felt like it’s another one that’s just too soon.”

Later, Winans’ set in the Gospel Tent -- a stage that looms large over but culturally separate from the fest, especially on Sundays -- would get delayed significantly, with Winans delivering a stirring albeit truncated set.

1:40 p.m. The native Louisianans of Better Than Ezra have just started digging into the grooves of “Extra Ordinary” on Acura Stage, interpolating bits of The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face” and Sublime’s “What I Got” into the song’s tempo. The ’90s alt-rock notables have soldiered on for almost 30 years, but making sure to give a nod to their back-in-the-day hits “Desperately Wanting” and “Good”, a former Alternative Songs No. 1, in the set.

1:50 p.m. Zydeco scion Corey Ledet is in the midst of a clever duo of covers at the Sheraton Fais Do-Do Stage: a barely recognizable cover of Lifehouse’s hit rock single “Hanging By A Moment” and, in tribute to Prince, a faithful-sounding cover of “Purple Rain” with horns and guitars but -- in an unheard of move for most zydeco bands -- free of accordion. “We love you, Prince!” Ledet says, as he concludes the song.

2:10 p.m. Lafayette, La. band Royal Teeth is starting up a set full of fist-pumping and singalong-inspiring anthems at Gentilly Stage, including “Stay” and “Kids Conspire”, a new song. Likely the only band of the festival to date to cover Swedish electronic music duo The Knife (a straight-forward take on “Heartbeats”), the band opts for a tribute to David Bowie with a cover of “Under Pressure”, polishing off the set with its signature single “Wild”. Earlier in the day, Billboard caught up with the band to talk Prince. “There’s so much personal connection and yet you don’t even know him,” said Gary Larsen, one of the band’s lead singers with Nora Patterson. The band played Minneapolis the day after Prince’s death, feeling the energy of the pop icon’s hometown. “It’s weird to think someone that creative isn’t going to be around making songs anymore," added Patterson.

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4:15 p.m. Two of the finest living jazz composers and instrumentalists, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, are playing the Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent and everyone is enraptured. There’s an eerie quiet under the tent as Hancock lays down piano lines, softly blinking them into the quiet. Shorter, on soprano saxophone, rests more than he plays. That they both play in a higher register suggests some kind of holy procession amid the quiet. With Winans’ set was hung up by technical difficulties for the moment, the Jazz Tent’s reverence may have been the holiest ground for just a moment this Sunday.

5 p.m. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are outdrawing Pearl Jam’s crowd yesterday, arguably, its fans spilling out onto the dirt track exterior of the fairgrounds’ race course. The Peppers and their fans pop to life with “Can’t Stop”, Flea slapping that lead bass within an inch of its life. Drummer Chad Smith gets to shine with a solo on the way into “Dani California”. There’s some touching singalongs on “Scar Tissue” and “Under the Bridge”, a swerve of a groove and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer’s sweet solo on “Aeroplane”. The energy dips but comes back for “Higher Ground”, the Stevie Wonder standard the Chili Peppers have made their own for 20 years. “Californication” and “By the Way” get it back to where it should be. Then there’s a set break, a de facto and explicit encore, where the crowd awaits what turns out to be “Around the World” and “Give It Away”, a finale with George Porter Jr., Ziggy Modeliste and Ivan Neville, members of New Orleans funk legends The Meters. “They are our teachers!” Flea proclaims, and they funk it out for ten minutes.

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5:25 p.m. Nick Jonas enters to screaming young fans at Gentilly Stage, beginning his set with “Levels” and “Champagne Problems” plus his vocal on “Good Thing”, his song with rapper Sage the Gemini. Later, he indulges the young fans’ parents with a cover of “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, who is set to play the festival for a hotly anticipated set next week. It’s not his only cover, of course, as he pays tribute to Prince with “I Would Die 4 U” and “Purple Rain”. Later, Trombone Shorty guests with Jonas on the infectious “Jealous”. 

5:45 p.m. Rappers don’t always get their due shine at Jazz Fest, a festival more focused on the late greats and legacy acts than young-and-hungry hip-hop acts. That said, if one set at Congo Square Stage headliner could finally break that mold, it’s J. Cole. His set is absolutely packing out the fairly large stage, with barely any breathing room up front. Cole’s got them in the palm of his hand, swaying their hands up high for “Higher” and the awkward-yet-seductive “Wet Dreamz”. Cole’s “Nobody’s Perfect” jams out super funky, too. As a Prince tribute, Cole wears a custom athletic jersey of Prince’s The Artist Formerly Known As symbol: a symbol of rebellion worn by a rapper known for speaking his truth.