Leading up to festival-closing headliner Billy Joel, Bonnaroo 2015’s final day and evening featured acts both young and old, from New Orleans folk to local rock heroes to a late-night TV bandleader-comedian to certifiable rock legend.
Robert Plant brought his latest band, the Sensational Space Shifters, to Bonnaroo’s Which Stage Sunday night, and as per usual he kept references to his former legendary band to a minimum.
The 66-year-old former Led Zeppelin frontman delivered a mix of originals, such as the group’s single “Rainbow,” and blues covers from the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Bukka White. Plant kept songs from the Led Zep catalog to a trickle, spacing iconic songs such as “Black Dog,” Whole Lotta Love” and “Going to California” throughout the set list.
Plant kept his stage banter to a minimum too, only introducing songs that included “Little Maggie,” a tune inspired by the Appalachian Mountains, and Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song.” He credited Nashville resident Jack White for reminding him of the song after White started covering it live, most famously during his 2014 Bonnaroo set list.
Even though Plant was getting over a case of laryngitis, his vocals were more than up to par, hitting high notes without hesitation and giving the audience of primarily 20-somethings a chance to see a rock legend do what he does best — perform.
Brandi Carlile and her band performed for several thousand fans early Sunday night at Bonnaroo’s Which Stage, although the show felt as intimate as a nightclub set.
With her twin bandmates and longtime musical partners, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, by her side, Carlile made a powerful entrance with the title track from her latest album “The Firewatcher’s Daughter.” The rest of the set featured songs from the album as well as earlier recordings such as “Keep Your Heart Young,” “Raise Hell,” and a powerful rendition of her breakthrough hit, “The Story.”
Hailing for Ravensdale, Washington, Carlile raced around the stage for most of the show with a genuine smile on her face, only stopping to shred chords on her guitar and to thank the crowd for bracing the intense heat.
“I’ve been so excited to play this show,” she said early on in the set. “Bonnaroo is the best music festival.”
Having previously played “The Farm,” the show drew Carlile’s biggest ’Roo crowd to date. She and her band closed on a high note with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Hurray for the Riff Raff made its Bonnaroo debut by delivering a riveting 45-minute set Sunday afternoon at the That Tent.
The American folk group kicked of the show with “Blue Ridge Mountain,” with bandmate Yosi Pearlstein’s fiddle serving as a driving force behind the song. Along with folk, Hurray for the Riff Raff blended in a subtle blues and Cajun influence on most of the tracks.
The band’s frontwoman and founder, Alynda Lee Segarra, weaved in stories between songs about her time in the Bronx before making New Orleans her permanent residence, something she said had a powerful influence on her music.
Occasionally backed with harmonies, Segarra’s strong, steady voice, reminiscent of the Dixie Chick’s Natalie Maines, encompassed heavy passion as she belted out to the crowd.
— Dylan Skye Aycock, @dylskye
One of three Nashville-area winners in this spring’s The Road to Bonnaroo competition, Sol Cat turned in a passionate, energetic set late Sunday afternoon for a crowd that dwarfed the New Music on Tap Lounge stage in the heart of the Bonnaroo grounds.
Lead singer Brett Hammann sweated up a storm while grooving and moving to his own beat.
Sol Cat is definitely a band to watch. Their performance, style and sound screams Bonnaroo.
— Kimi Taylor, @kimi_taylor_
Bonnaroo’s air-conditioned circus big-top tent known as the Comedy Theatre, always a popular stop, particularly packs in the crowds during sweltering afternoons.
Sunday’s closing day extended the tradition, as lines extended well beyond the entrances for the chance to see a pair of shows headlined by comedian-musician Reggie Watts.
After a well-received opening standup set from Matt McCarthy, the wild-haired Watts hit the stage for his first set after an introduction from Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo.
The Seattle-based Watts treated fans to a set filled with absurdist humor and surrealistic musical numbers spun from his multifaceted voice, a keyboard and a looping machine.
The performer, who serves as bandleader on CBS’s “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” mixed the beats for his songs on the spot with vocal effects ranging from an advertising pitch man to a fully stocked drum kit.
— Ross Wilson
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