New Orleans Jazz Fest Final Day: Kacey Musgraves, Lenny Kravitz & More

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Kacey Musgraves performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds Race Course on May 3, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The final day of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival felt like a relaxing exhale compared to the breath-holding day before, which had an untenably large attendance. Sundays in the South are big on gospel, and both of Jazz Fest’s Sundays reflected that. The Blind Boys of Alabama gave a stirring performance in the Gospel Tent, bringing the seated crowd to its feet. Lenny Kravitz was the Acura Stage’s biggest out-of-town performer, ending out his set with “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” with a little help from main stage’s biggest in-town hero, Trombone Shorty. Also, country phenom Kacey Musgraves played familiar hits, songs from her new album (due at the end of June, she said) and a few choice covers.

2:40 p.m. You’d be hard pressed to find a more versatile singer in New Orleans than John Boutté. Boutté kicked off his set in the Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent with “Basin Street Blues”, veering between New Orleans jazz and pop standards in his set. He sang a bright sunny take on Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and a tender rendition of “But Not for Me”, a Gershwins tune from the 1930 musical Girl Crazy, made famous by the likes of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Perhaps best known outside New Orleans as singing the theme song for HBO’s Treme ("The Treme Song"), Boutté is part of a rich singing legacy in the Crescent City. So naturally John brought out his extended family (Lillian, Tricia, Tanya, who usually sing gospel) for Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire”.

3:50 p.m. On the Acura Stage, Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis introduced Lenny Kravitz, who lead off with the fairly obscure “Dirty White Boots”, a deep cut off Kravitz’s latest, Strut. For what his opener may have lacked in punch, he more than compensated, following it with his signature cover of The Guess Who’s “American Woman”, following that with his biggest Hot 100 hit, “It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over” which peaked at no. 2 on the singles chart in 1991. Kravitz polished off his funky, hard-rocking set with “Fly Away” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” leaving the stage during a vamped outro to bring out Trombone Shorty who, with his brass weapon of choice, matched handily the guitar heroics Kravitz and his band displayed.

4:15 p.m. Sunday is the Gospel Tent’s time to step it up, and The Blind Boys of Alabama are doing right by that. Their vamp on “Amazing Grace” -- which, at first, had the dark minor-key groove similar to The Animals version of “The House of the Rising Sun” --  took at least 15 minutes of set time. The gospel standard became manic, bringing the audience to its feet. At its peak, singer Jimmy Carter, with an escort, comes down does a lap around the Gospel Tent stage, greeting fans.

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5:45 p.m. Country -- particularly newer pop country -- is received strangely at Jazz Fest. Sometimes it’s put on a main stage where it should be (like Keith Urban last week) but Kacey Musgraves is a newer act and wholly different animal, with her light-up cowboy boots and her band’s nudie suits set against a set of neon cacti. Putting Musgraves at the Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do Do Stage -- reserved mostly for Cajun and zydeco music -- was an odd fit. But among songs like “Silver Lining”, “Stupid” and “Blowin’ Smoke,” Musgraves dispensed with a heckler (“Don’t ruin it for everybody else, dude,” she said) and wisecracked her way into the crowd’s heart.

She played her newest songs, “Biscuits” and “High Time”, saying her new album is due by end of June. Musgraves didn't give an official title but things are obviously in the works for her, saying that her Jazz Fest set was the last time she’s playing that particular setlist, which pulled mostly from 2013’s Same Trailer Different Park. She let the crowd in on news about the forthcoming video for “Biscuits”, saying “it’s like if ‘Hee Haw’ threw up on somethin’.” Musgraves threw in a few covers, too: Weezer’s “Island in the Sun”, TLC’s “No Scrubs”, a few bars of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” and Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”. She polished her set off with her two country-chart hits, “Merry Go Round” and “Follow Your Arrow.”


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