Live from Bonnaroo: Citizen Cope, Erykah Badu and Snoop Dogg
(Soundcheck's Carole Giambalvo is in Manchester, Tenn., for the Bonnaroo Music Festival. She'll be sending Bonnaroo reviews from the scene all weekend.)
For the most part, Sunday at Bonnaroo was a gloriously sleepy affair*. And just like in real life, getting a full eight hours‚Äô worth paid off big time.
Crowds were thinner, especially early, meaning a chance for the fans to get closer to the stages. People lounged on blankets. There was more room for dancing, too. So I guess my advice to future attendees would be: Save room for Sunday.
Citizen Cope eased it in with warm, unhurried soul. His sport coat suggested an after-church session. He opened with Hurricane Waters, where he sang and gestured to the crowd that he‚Äôd carry them through the hurricane waters to bluer skies. His mumbly Southern inflection was offset by crisp beats and a thriving organ. On Bullet and a Target, his biggest hit to date, Cope faux-rapped about people in difficult predicaments (drug abuse, teen pregnancy, etc.), which garnered enthusiasm from the crowd.
Yet there seemed to be a bigger star on his stage. A guest singer, who Cope would later introduce as ‚ÄúAlice,‚Äù had incredible range. She‚Äôd perk up even the most heavy-eyed listener. She received a roaring ovation after an all-too-short solo. I‚Äôd love to find out more about her.
Off to the big stage (early this time) to see the ‚Äúfirst lady of neo-soul,‚Äù Erykah Badu. This was a treat for her fans, as Badu‚Äôs live performances have been few and far between for some time now.
Her band played on stage for at least 5 minutes before she made her deservedly royal entrance. Dressed in a Public Enemy hoodie, a top hat, noir sunglasses and high heels (hey, she was writing her own style rules here), Badu was quick to reach sour-faced highs. To say she‚Äôs got sass is an understatement. Case in point: her backup dancers even wore T-shirts that bore the image of her face.
She played The Healer from her latest and perhaps most experimental release, New Amerykah, where she proclaimed, ‚ÄúHip hop is bigger than the government.‚Äù Naturally, ‚ÄôRoo fans loved that. She‚Äôd circle back to the track to close out the set.
Badu took some time out to explain, via a quirky interlude, what she‚Äôd been doing during her retreat from touring. She had three kids by ‚Äúthree different dudes,‚Äù but she loved the guys deeply. Her legs and backside got bigger and she hit 36, she sang. It was witty, candid, simply wonderful ‚Äî a great transition that showed Badu, for all her splendor and accolades, was just like us. In fact, she told the audience, ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs no place I‚Äôd rather be than here with you.‚Äù
She‚Äôd gradually peel back the layers of her deliciously weird ensemble and lay down her signature stuff ‚Äî feverish hip-hop, jazz with a touch of pyschedelia and spoken word (On and On, Back in the Day). Later came an electronic drum pad solo. Some fans shouted for another Badu great, Tyrone, though it never came. Even without it, the set was fantastic. Here‚Äôs hoping we won‚Äôt have to wait so long next time for more.
Across town, master multi-tasker and folk-pop artist Andrew Bird was 30 minutes into his set. (Again, tough decisions to be made at Bonnaroo). At first sight, Bird‚Äôs a bit awkward. He‚Äôd scratch at his scalp and stumble, albeit gracefully, around the stage. His music, however ‚Äî never awkward. Sleepy folk turned dramatically classical, as Bird used his fingers to play his violin like a guitar. (I didn‚Äôt know that worked?!)
‚ÄúI like playing music with my friends,‚Äù he bashfully announced to the crowd. Then he‚Äôd balance tip-toe melodies on a marimba and with his signature whistling. A gramophone spun maniacally in the background. Bird also did a segment where he whistled into his violin to the create an echo effect like that of a reverbed guitar. But for all Bird‚Äôs tricky tasks, his music remained fluid and soothing. And though I was sad to miss Oh No, Bird introduced to me to a lot of great material. Definitely a Sunday highlight.
Let‚Äôs switch gears: Why does Snoop Dogg carry an umbrella? Fo‚Äô drizzle! (Heard that gem on the way to his set).
Snoop rolled in with chirpy Dr. Dre collab, The Next Episode. And a fierce rhythm section brought it all the way live. Snoop asked for ‚Äúho ho‚Äôs‚Äù and ‚Äúhell yeahs,‚Äù and the crowd ate it up. He played the Jaime Foxx/T-Pain dancefloor staple Blame It in order to introduce his (still) favorite drink and ‚Äô90s hit Gin and Juice. And the crotch-grabbing Nothin‚Äô But a G Thang and a highly-unedited version of his Akon collab I Wanna Love You got big participation from the crowd too. Snoop played off the Bonnaroo vibe well, emphasizing his smoking habits, if you know what I‚Äôm saying. The man‚Äôs a bona fide entertainer.
We caught Band of Horses just in time for a triumphant Is There a Ghost. The bearded Sub Pop rockers dug deep. Definitely would like to see more.
Overall: 96 hours of music and lots of difficult decisions. Though in my experience, there were no bad choices at the place that is Bonnaroo. People were here for music, and that‚Äôs a big, wonderful deal.
‚Äî Carole Giambalvo, tbt*. Photos: Associated Press.
* Though this was the first day metal acts (i.e. Shadows Fall and Dillinger Escape Plan) would perform, I wasn‚Äôt able to catch any of these shows.