Jazz Fest endured intermittent thunderstorms on Thursday
Jazz Fest fans endured intermittent but hard thunderstorms Thursday at the Fair Grounds, but sunshine prevailed as light crowds enjoyed open spaces.
The Lost Bayou Ramblers started its set during a downpour but finished under sunny skies. After a few songs, Rickie Lee Jones came on stage wearing a clear plastic disposable poncho as the rain poured and sat down at the grand piano. It came as no surprise when she played one of the songs off her 2015 album The Other Side of Desire
, named for street in her Bywater neighborhood. "Valtz de Mon Pere" was inspired by Ramblers fiddler Louis Michot, who plays on the album. She also played "J'a Connais Pas," a New Orleans R&B-inflected tune from the album.
Spider Stacy (second from left) led the Lost Bayou Ramblers through a host of songs by The Pogues.
The Ramblers performed several stomping, up-tempo Cajun tunes, including "Hot Shoes" and "Don't Shake My Tree." before the second billed guest came on stage, The Pogues' Spider Stacy. He launched into Pogues songs, including a couple raucous ones about drinking, "Boys From the County Hell" and "Streams of Whiskey." Andre Michot's accordion drove the Pogues' "Greenland Whale Fisheries." One of the set's brightest moments was its finale, when Aurora Nealand come onstage to sing "Fairytale of New York" with Stacy, exchanging a litany of insults ("You're a bum, you're a punk ..., you scumbag, you maggot...") from a couple's drunken spat at Christmas. But it came off like a cheerful duet.
Gary Clark Jr. enjoyed sunny skies during his set on the Acura Stage. At one point, he told the crowd, "I've never sweated so much in my life. I feel sexy and gross at the same time." He worked up a sweat with a screeching, distorted solo on "When My Train Pulls In." Clark sang in his high falsetto over mellower sounds on "Our Love," and the band ripped through his upbeat rocker "Give It Up Now" from Blak and Blu
. Clark also impressed on the song "Grinder," played slide on "Catfish Blues," and the band turned many tunes into extended heavy blues-rock jams.
The Suffers didn't get off to a great start on the Congo Square Stage, at first delaying the set until sound system problems were resolved. After 10 minutes, the band decided to entertain the crowd with an instrumental jam, and singer Kam Franklin soon decided to start. The Houston band, with guitars, keyboards and a horn section, bills its music as "Gulf Coast soul." Franklin called it "a little bit soul, a little bit jazz and a little bit reggae" (but it was mostly a jazzy soul band on Thursday). At times, it's a little bit Latin, and at one point was "a little bit cumbia" on "Baila Esta Cumbia."
Kam Franklin leads The Suffers on the Congo Square Stage.
There was plenty of amusing but harmless miscommunication. In the middle of the sultry come-on "Make Some Room," Franklin sings "Do you want a sandwich?" When the audience was too quiet, she stopped the band and said she was disappointed in New Orleans, which she expected would be more enthusiastic about eating — and whatever else the song offers. Several people screamed "po-boy" at her to no avail. She made the band and audience do that part again, and the crowd at Congo Square roared when she asked if anyone wanted a sandwich.
One could easily have thought Elvis Costello and the Imposters were trying to get their hits out of the way early on the Gentilly Stage, but it wasn't clear why. The band ran through fast and uninspired versions of "Watching the Detectives" (Costello added a siren noise from a bullhorn inscribed with his name — though the song says "don't get cute"), "Mystery Dance" and "Radio Radio." The band later played "Everyday I Write the Book."
The 90 minute set had two highlights. Costello stopped to talk about the late Allen Toussaint, with whom he recorded the album The River in Reverse
following Hurricane Katrina. Costello told the crowd that while recording, Toussaint never told him what he wanted. Instead, Costello would offer something for Toussaint's approval, and often the response was, "Well, what do you think of that?" Costello said. Costello then played "Ascension Day" from the album — part of which was a tribute to Professor Longhair, but which Costello adapted to Toussaint.
The album was recorded with the Crescent City Horns, a group featuring Big Sam Williams and other local horn players. The group joined Costello on stage for the last half hour, and the rest of the set was noticeably tighter and more focused, including on the album's title track, but also on Costello's hit, which closed the show, "Pump it Up."