Wilco and Galactic Bring Smooth Intensity to Jazz Fest - Rolling Stone
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Wilco and Galactic Bring Smooth Intensity to Jazz Fest

Sets benefit from bands’ comfort in idyllic New Orleans setting

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco performs at the 2011 New Orleans Jazz Festival in New Orleans, May 5, 2011.

Douglas Mason/Getty Images

Jeff Tweedy was in a chatty mood at New Orleans Jazz Fest yesterday. “A girl winked at me! That never happens,” he joked during Wilco‘s set, their third at Jazz Fest since 2005. Nels Cline’s explosive guitar playing kept things from ever getting too comfortable, but the ease with which band dealt with its central tensions made set closer “Heavy Metal Drummer” seem experimental by contrast: a three-minute pop song.

Stream Performances from New Orleans Jazz Fest 2011

Festival producer Quint Davis had earlier declared Wilco and New Orleans funk band Galactic “two of the best bands in America,” and Galactic did its part to live up that praise. On recent albums, the band has embraced hip-hop and DJ aesthetics, but in concert, they remain the group that cut its musical teeth playing hard, funky versions of songs from the Blue Note Records catalogue. They no longer have a full-time singer, preferring a rotating cast of guest vocalists, and yesterday Living Colour’s Corey Glover fronted the band. His vocal intensity matched the band’s love of rock and perfectly suited a surprising, high-powered version of the Swamp Dogg soul classic, “Total Destruction to Your Mind.”

The Hottest Photos from Jazz Fest 2011

Lucinda Williams drew a number of tracks from her recent Blessed album during her set, which filmed for the final episode of HBO’s Treme. She wasn’t as animated and feral as she was when she performed at Jazz Fest in 2007, but her energy and intensity grew as the set progressed to the blues rockers “Changed the Locks” and “Honey Bee.” Still, the mood was often closer to the elegiac tone set early on by the run of “Pineola” and “Drunken Angel,” showing love to those no longer with us.   

But perhaps the most memorable moment of the day took place in the Jazz Tent when trumpeter Christian Scott invited girlfriend Isadora Mendez onstage, got down on one knee and proposed to her before family, friends and a few thousand well-wishers. She said yes.

EARLIER: The Decemberists and Dr. John Highlight Old and New at Jazz Fest


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