ACL Fest 2016: Gregory Porter’s jazz gospel heals spirits, Sunday sunburns

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter performs on the third day of the opening weekend of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 2. 10/02/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter performs on the third day of the opening weekend of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 2. 10/02/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Dear ACL Fest weekend two folks,

There may come a time on Sunday when you have had enough. The sun is too hot and you have accidentally endured more folk-country or EDM or whatever genre is not your thing than you ever intended. You may be feeling a tad sunburned and, shall we say, stabby.

I implore you: Get yourself to Gregory Porter’s 6 p.m. set in the tiny Tito’s tent. Get some shade, soak up some soul instead of sun, and heal your spirit with the gospel of jazz. Whoever booked Porter in this same place and time both Sundays knew exactly what they were doing (or had a stroke of divine intervention).

Walking into the tent, it felt like the band was leading a revival among friends.

Porter and his classic band of pianist, saxophonist, drummer, and upright bassist were everything ACL needed right when we needed it  – a small crowd at sundown, warm, soaring vocals, audience-participation hand claps, and the out-of-sight instrumentalist solos. (I don’t know who had the unenviable task of getting a grand piano into the Zilker Park grounds and up onto the stage, but whoever you are, thank you.)

Original anthem “No Love Dying” was a major sing-along highlight, with Porter, who was returning to the U.S. from touring in Korea and Australia. calling out, “I don’t care who you’re voting for!” in between chorus shout-outs of “There will be no love left dying here.” “On My Way to Harlem” movingly spoke of Langston Hughes, Marvin Gaye, and going home.

I was baptized by the sound of horns
Oh I found out on my way through Harlem
Marvin Gaye used to play “What’s Going On” right over there
I so could use some of those blues from Langston Hughes

Porter and company gave us lush harmonies on a cover of The Temptations’ ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone” that had audience members simultaneously trying to shake a leg and take a video. The jazz singer worked in a snippet of powerful black spiritual “Wade in the Water.” (I would love to see Porter cover Bill Withers’ “Use Me” next time.)

The energy dipped during jazzier number “In Fashion,” as part of the crowd left early to grab dinner or good spots for the evening’s headliners. But Porter picked things back up for a big finish, his voice bobbing and weaving, high and low, to appreciative cheers. A woman who had been enthusiastically dancing along held her hands up in Porter’s direction, making a heart shape in the air.

Mark your calendars for 6 p.m. Sunday at Tito’s, weekend two folks. Take a load off your body and soul with Gregory Porter.


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