As temperatures soared well into the 90s, American roots music reigned supreme on the second day of Austin City Limits festival (Sept. 27), with Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Iron & Wine, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Conor Oberst leading the charge.
Plant explained to the audience that he’s been a pupil of American music his entire life, and is now discovering the sounds of Mississippi and the Appalachia region via his work with Krauss on last year’s “Raising Sand.” The pair breezed through several cuts from that album, including “Killing the Blues” and a rousing “Gone Gone Gone,” while the traditional folk song “Down to the River To Pray” was done a cappella. The Led Zeppelin catalog was also dipped into in the form of “The Battle of Evermore.”
At dusk, Iron & Wine changed things up from its usual mix of slow, rootsy balladry in favor of a more jam-oriented set. “Wolves” stretched into the 10-minute mark, with a spacey middle section featuring Sarah Beam’s violin. The performance wound down with a dark, bluesy “Cinder & Smoke” and a gorgeous rendition of “The Trapeze Singer,” with just Sam and Sarah Beam on stage.
Earlier in the evening, Spiritualized turned out one of the day’s best sets. Drawing from throughout its catalog and even back into frontman Jason Pierce’s time with Spacemen 3, the group opened with a feedback- and distortion-drenched “Amazing Grace” before touching on “Shine a Light” and “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. “Soul on Fire” was the only cut played from the recently released album “Songs in A&E.”
Classic country and soul traditions were on display earlier in the day. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings churned out a highly energized set of James Brown-era funk. “Got To Be” featured a bit of Brown’s “Superbad” and Jones closed the show with a soulful version of “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.”
Oberst, decked out in a suit with a rose pinned to his lapel, and the Mystic Valley Band riffed on classic country rock in front of a massive crowd. “Sausalito,” “Cape Canaveral” and a cover of Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” highlighted the set.
After a late start, a noticeably pregnant Erykah Badu channeled her inner Funkadelic on tracks like “Healer” and “Me.” Earlier in the day, Austin’s own Bavu Blakes and the Extra Plairs delivered a solid set of funky hip-hop in the vein of the Roots and De La Soul.
Austin City Limits wraps up today with performances from Foo Fighters, Gnarls Barkley, Band Of Horses and the Raconteurs.