NEW ORLEANS — What a difference a day makes. After a Friday of mud, wind and chill, Saturday saw the sun return to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The temperature rose into the 70s, the mud receded.
The cooperative weather likely helped draw what must have been one of the biggest crowds in Jazz Fest history to classic-rock band Fleetwood Mac’s headlining show at the Acura Stage. The audience maxed out space on the Fair Grounds Race Course infield and bordering racetrack.
Fleetwood Mac singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham used his introduction of a newly recorded Fleetwood Mac song to explain the return of the band that’s sold 100 million albums.
It would be easy to assume, Buckingham said, that a group with decades together in the music business would have nothing new to discover. On the contrary, he said, “there seem to be a few more chapters left in the history of Fleetwood Mac.”
The 2013 edition of Fleetwood Mac features four of the five group members who filled its most successful lineup: drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, Buckingham and singing, tambourine-rattling Stevie Nicks.
“We’re so excited to be in your amazing city,” Nicks said after the band opened with “Second Hand News” and the autobiographical “The Chain.”
The band played many of the hits the crowd expected. “Rhiannon,” a Nicks signature song, also came early in the show.
Nicks, always the most visually striking member of the group, wore blonde bangs, oversized tinted glasses that looked very ’60s and one of her witchy black outfits. Later in the show, she donned a top hat for “Go Your Own Way.”
True to Fleetwood Mac history, one of the new songs the band played — released via iTunes last week — was inspired by a disagreement between Buckingham and Nicks. He responded to her reluctance to make a full-length album by writing “Sad Angel.”
“Hello, hello, sad angel,” Buckingham and Nicks sang together on the Acura Stage. “Have you come to fight the war? … The crowd’s calling out for more.”
Nicks and Buckingham took center stage again for “Landslide,” from 1977’s landmark “Rumors” album. The pair performed the song as a duet, with her singing and him playing his finger-picking, multi-voiced acoustic guitar.
Frank Ocean also performed Saturday. He is a New Orleans native whose 2012 album, “Channel Orange,” won a Grammy Award for best urban contemporary album. Another of the day’s Grammy-winning acts, French rock band Phoenix, appeared on the Gentilly Stage.
In this world-famous music festival for which the majority of talent comes from New Orleans, two generations of blues singer-guitarists, Kenny Neal and Jonathon “Boogie” Long, represented Baton Rouge Saturday.
Neal drew a full house to his early afternoon show at the Blues Tent.
“Oh, I’m feeling the blues already!” he told his audience before playing the moody, mid-tempo and ultimately searing “Blues Falling Down Like Rain.”
Neal has been performing at Jazz Fest since the 1970s, beginning with his late singing, harmonica-playing dad, Raful. His band now includes his brother Frederick and nephew Tyree, both playing keyboards, his bassist brother, Darnell, and drummer Bryan Morris.
Always popular at Jazz Fest, Neal’s songs often transcended his genre in the Blues Tent, one example being his inspirational soul ballad, “You Gotta Hurt Before You Heal.”
After his set, Neal posed for photos and greeted dozens of fans, including Jazz Fest attendees from Australia, Germany and France. He also gave an interview to a Slovenian journalist.
Later in the afternoon at the Blues Tent, Long, a 25-year-old star on the rise fresh from a tour with B.B. King, tempered his often rocking, swaggering blues with softer yet still virtuosic guitar interludes.
In an example of the collaborations that happen often at Jazz Fest, rhythm-and-blues and funk masters George Porter Jr. and Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste — the bass and drums in the Meters respectively — joined two jazz artists, trumpeter Nicholas Payton and pianist David Torkanowsky, in the local supergroup, Fleur Debris Superband.
Naturally, this supergroup’s selections grooved, but they also turned ethereal and exploratory in, for instance, the band’s rendition of New Orleans jazz maestro Harold Battiste’s “Marzique Dancing.” The Fleur Debris Superband drew an overflow crowd at the Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent.
Jazz Fest wraps up Sunday.
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