Erykah Badu, Lauren Daigle also headlined stages on Saturday at the Fair Grounds
The Revivalists saluted the Foo Fighters at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Saturday by covering “Times Like These.”
But they didn’t make people weep the way Stevie Nicks did by dedicating the bittersweet ballad “Landslide” to her pal Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters’ late drummer.
That extremely intimate moment played out in front of a massive crowd at the main Festival Stage. The crowd was even denser than the throng that watched the Red Hot Chili Peppers fill in for the Foo Fighters at the Fair Grounds last Sunday, even spilling onto the dirt track.
Maybe it was pent up demand. Nicks first performed at the festival with Fleetwood Mac in 2013. Fleetwood Mac was supposed to replace the Rolling Stones in 2019, only to bow out as well.
Then Nicks was booked for both the 2020 and 2021 Jazz Fests, which were scuttled by the pandemic. She finally made it to the festival on a hot, sunny Saturday.
Rory Block, Samantha Fish
Saturday’s schedule was dominated by female artists.
Rory Block grew up as a student of the blues. At the Blues Tent, the 72-year-old sat alone with a guitar and the ghosts of long-gone blues guitarists. She told tales about, and revisited the songs of, Muddy Waters, Son House, Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson in her country-blues style. She picked and pulled at the guitar strings with power, but her whole show needed to be louder. Her song introductions and stories were mostly inaudible toward the rear of the tent, and even much of her guitar work was lost.
Volume was not an issue for Samantha Fish. Sheathed in bold white and black stripes at the Festival Stage, she and a brawny three-piece band powered through a set of blues-rock custom-built for big stages.
Since three calendar years have elapsed since the previous Jazz Fest, she played a song that expressed her feeling: “Hello, stranger, it seems so good to see you back again/How long has it been/Seems like a mighty long time.”
She delivered one hearty guitar solo after another on a succession of electric guitars, as her band’s keyboardist filled in arrangements driven by the band’s drummer. In “Better Be Lonely,” Fish’s solo followed the song’s melody line. Elsewhere, she sheered off bluesy tones and gritty riffs, totally in command.
Rickie Lee Jones goes local
Rickie Lee Jones, a New Orleans resident of recent vintage, has been waiting to play at Jazz Fest. At the Shell Gentilly Stage, she and an ensemble anchored by drummer, percussionist and vibraphonist Mike Dillon eased into the set.
That set took flight with “Young Blood.” All poetry and playfulness, her voice skated atop the keyboards and horns. She strummed an acoustic guitar for “Chuck E’s in Love” as Dillon’s percussion provided structure. Heading into the refrain, the horn section from local jazz-funk band Naughty Professor gave the arrangement a Van Morrison feel.
Jones switched to grand piano for the “Pirates” title track. In “Danny’s All Star Joint,” she sang of coffee and coins and butcher 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 has 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 have a history with great musicians.”
Daigle, Badu, Nicks bring it home
Saturday’s female headliners included Mavis Staples filling in for Melissa Etheridge in the Blues Tent. (The Zac Brown Band will substitute for Willie Nelson on Sunday.) Erykah Badu casting her spiritual soul sister spell for a big crowd at the Congo Square Stage.
A relatively modest crowd bore witness to Lauren Daigle, the contemporary Christian pop star from Lafayette, at the Gentilly Stage; it was far smaller than Elvis Costello’s crowd the previous evening.
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 delivered a benediction via her hit ballad “You Say.”
At the opposite end of the Fair Grounds, Nicks opened her first show in nearly three years with “Outside the Rain.” “I have been home watching miniseries, wearing really comfy pants and teaching my dog how to shake hands,” she said of her pandemic activities. “He doesn’t quite have it yet.”
Getting back to work, Nicks cruised 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 Bella Donna, part of a multi-layer ensemble she wore in defiance of the day’s heat.
All the familiar characteristics of her voice were present. She prefaced “Landslide” with, “Taylor, this song is for you.” Set against Wachtel’s acoustic guitar accompaniment, she caressed such lyrics as, “I’ve been afraid of changing, cause I’ve built my life around you/But time makes you bolder, even children get older/And I’m getting older too,” which took on a different meaning in reference to Hawkins.
A persistent “boom, boom” bedeviled and distracted her throughout the show. She couldn’t pinpoint the source, but it may have been the bass from Badu’s stage.
Nevertheless, she pressed own. 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 charge through Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It had indeed been a long time since Nicks rocked and rolled.
“It was a journey,” a relieved Nicks said of her Saturday show.
A journey that concluded in front of a staggering crowd at Jazz Fest.
Keith Spera / Times-Picayune (New Orleans) / May 7, 2022