Arroyo Seco Weekend, Sunday June 24th 2018
The next day at Arroyo Seco Weekend brought a certain nostalgic vibe but it turned out to be a good one overall: First, the Revolution, Prince’s band, played a set at the beginning of the afternoon and if you are wondering what the band could possibly do with the most important part missing, you should have witnessed their awesome stage energy. When guitarist Wendy Melvoin alongside keyboardists Lisa Coleman, Dr. Fink, bassist BrownMark and drummer Bobby Z made an appearance at Paisley Park as part of a Celebration in 2017, they knew they had to keep going and since, they have played numerous dates across the US. And why not? They were Prince’s back-up band, they played on some of his albums and they are an excellent live band. They brought the funk and some purple rain in everyone’s heart (yes they did that one) and they owned the songs with the help of a young and dynamic singer… Everyone was dancing, everyone was happy, and this is probably the closest thing to a Prince concert I will ever be, as I beat myself to have never been able to see his purple Highness live.
Talking about nostalgia and Prince, the Bangles may have started their set with their very popular cover of Paul Simon’s song, ‘Hazy Shades of Winter’, but Suzanna Hoffs didn’t forget to dedicate ‘Manic Monday’ to Prince. They were all girl harmonies, with even a Big Star song (‘September Gurls’) followed by other rare covers, proving that time is not an issue for some lucky people, as the women still looked and sounded like some youthful reincarnation of one of the most beloved ‘80s pop rock bands.
Alanis Morissette was certainly part of this nostalgic trip as she made us relive the best of the ‘90s. With a short-haircut, a white pant and a black tee reading ‘HER’ ‘MAN’ in gigantic lettering, Alanis looked radiant and was all-smile during the entire time, while restlessly running from each corner of the stage. I have never followed her career very closely, but it seemed she was not very much in the spotlight lately (she raised two kids with her husband, rapper ‘Souleye’) but after a 6-year hiatus, she has a new album announced for this year. However, her set was heavy on oldies and I was actually amazed to realize how many Alanis Morissette songs I knew! Mostly all these ‘Jagged Little Pill’ songs, such as ‘Hand in My Pocket’, ‘All I Really Want’, ‘Head Over Feet’, ‘Ironic’, ‘You Learn’, ‘You Oughta Know’… She had a good energy switching from her glittery guitars to her harmonica, and the rest was a giant sing-along, with 1,000 young women around me loudly singing this anthem collection and covering Alanis’ voice. Looking at the crowd, Alanis is still a huge star.
Because he did a lot of Led Zeppelin songs during his set with the Sensational Space Shifters, Robert Plant was of course an in-depth nostalgic trip, Even though he gave some interesting twists to the famous songs (‘The Lemon song’, ‘Four Sticks’, ‘What Is and What Should Never Be’, ‘Going to California’) with a collection of world music instruments, this voice and these howls were unmistakable Led Zeppelin, and made the crowd cheer and jump of joy. If Neil was Arroyo Seco’s king on Saturday night, Robert Plant and his lion mane was Sunday’s king, I could feel sorry for headliners Kings of Leon, but it’s not because you picked Kings for monitor that you have earned the title. Between a middle eastern violin, layered exotic percussion, a Moroccan guitar and other ethnic instruments, Robert Plant was another iconic character of the rock ‘n’ roll mythology, playing in front of me and greatly at ease in his element. Beside two traditionals (‘Gallows Pole’ and ‘Little Maggie’) and a Joan Baez cover (‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’), he barely did anything from his new album, but he did the title track, ‘Carry Fire’, embarking the Californian crowd into a Middle Eastern trip. However, we were soon back to the rock guitars and 2 young girls passed a joint around, while the band was closing its set with a Led Zeppelin medley, ‘Bring It On Home/Whole Lotta Love/Santianna/Whole Lotta Love’… once again, it was the closest we will ever be to experience Led Zeppelin live.
Other highlights of the day included Violent Femmes who had attracted a very large crowd with their hilarious multi-level meaning songs, right in the middle of the afternoon… ‘This song has been said to have many meanings’, one of them said before playing ‘Blister in the Sun’.. ‘But we will stay with the literal meaning today’, It was a family show after all. They were funny, playing the classics, ‘Kiss Off’ or ‘Gone Daddy Gone’, and they did so much with so little, performing with a front drum, 2 guitars or a banjo, going gypsy or country, they played minimalist music for a stadium, and captivated the crowd.
Of course, Gary Clark Jr. was also a highly anticipated act, but despite his great talent as a guitarist, I failed to find any fascination in his accomplished guitar work. He plays the blues, a straightforward blues, a bit stiff and very concentrated on his guitar with a magnetic sight, but he doesn’t move much. He certainly hits all the right notes with suave vocals, but I still haven’t seen what he can bring to the genre, at least Jack White seems to hate us all when he plays his own band of blues. But I am being very harsh on Mr. Clark when wallpaper music-makers Kings of Leon were headlining this second day at Arroyo Seco Weekend. I know, I am visibly in a minority, as the entire set was a gigantesque sing-along with very excited females all around me screaming ‘K.O.L., K.O.L.!!!’ … and it’s not because their pop bombast bores me that people should not be singing and bouncing around. Their set was simply a soaring-chorus galore (did we need so many?), as they played their songs fast and well, from what I could tell, although I could barely hear Caleb Followill’s voice with all these people singing around me… I didn’t sing, I am not very familiar with their music except for their most corporate-radio tunes, but most of their songs were basically indistinguishable. The Followill brothers often tease us with a bombast as soon as a song starts, then go slowly before another bombast arrives in the most predictable way ever, it’s a formula which apparently works well. They didn’t say much during the set, and they never came back for an encore, but fans were still cheering and screaming in front of the stage, as I was trying to find a path through the crowd and wondering why Robert Plant was not the headliner.