Saturday evening’s lineup at the 2015 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival energized thousands, bouncing from one genre of music to another without complaint. Whether it was Childish Gambino’s mesmerizing set on the Which Stage or the set by heavy metal legends Slayer on the This Tent stage, fans were willing to stay up until the early morning hours to dance, party and, well, experience Bonnaroo.
D’Angelo and The Vanguard
The sweet and triumphant return of “R&B Jesus” D’Angelo was every bit as glorious as you could expect at Bonnaroo early Sunday morning.
D’Angelo first made an appearance at Bonnaroo in 2012 with a surprise showing at Questlove’s portion of the late-night SuperJam, which was then the first live show he had played in 12 years. So it was only fitting for him to be able to come back this time with his own highly regarded band, The Vanguard, to headline a late-night/early-morning set at This Tent.
The Vanguard quickly established the soul and the funk. While D’Angelo certainly fed off of the energy his band was generating, the singer truly gave a phenomenal performance on his own right. He switched between vocals, guitar and piano throughout the set, never giving the audience an opportunity to stand still.
That’s precisely what’s needed for a show that starts at 1 a.m.
While D’Angelo mostly performed songs from his latest album, “Black Messiah,” he also made sure to sprinkle in some of his most popular records such as “Brown Sugar” and “Left and Right,” which really got the crowd moving.
D’Angelo kept his stage patter with the audience to a minimum, which made it even more impactful when he dedicated a song to the young black men killed this year in police shootings that sparked claims of police brutality.
“This is for the fallen, the disenfranchised, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Eric Garner,” he said before launching into his song “Another Life.”
As soon as D’Angelo finished his set, the crowd feverishly cheered for him to immediately get back on the stage. Five minutes later, the crowd began chanting “D” before the singer returned for a 20-minute encore.
“They keep telling me it’s time to leave,” he said, as he prepared to cap one of Bonnaroo’s best performances of the weekend. “But I say, ‘hell no.’ ”
— Evan Brown
Rapper, actor and comedian Donald Glover, also known by his stage name Childish Gambino, attracted one of Saturday night’s biggest crowds at the Which Stage.
Backed by a live band, the Stone Mountain, Ga., native kicked off his set with tracks from his 2013 release, “Because the Internet,” many of which feature witty wordplay combined with strong hooks in tunes such as “V. 3005” and “IV. Sweatpants.”
Although Gambino dipped into a few older favorites, he reserved most of the set for songs from his combined mixtape/EP “S T N M T N/Kauai,” released in the fall, which includes the chilled, atmospheric track “Sober.” However, the 31-year-old artist didn’t exit the stage before debuting a new, experimental track without his typical dynamic rapping.
Judging by the crowd’s reaction, his chosen set list did not disappoint.
— Dylan Skye Aycock, @dylskye
Award-winning Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known by Hozier, performed one of the weekend’s most anticipated sets at Bonnaroo’s What Stage early Saturday night.
“How’s it going, Bonnaroo!” Hozier asked as the crowd erupted in cheers. “Christ, it’s good to see you, too.”
Then a magical stream of blues, soul and rock and roll filled the stage, as his band kicked into “Like Real People Do” as Hozier sang and strummed a guitar.
Grammy nominated and two-time Billboard Music Award winner already this year, Hozier broke from his own spiritually influenced, inclusive material to cover the Iggy Azalea and Ariana Grande hit “Problem.”
“This one is just for funzies,” Hozier told the delighted crowd.
His own “Work Song” soon followed, with a haunting gospel sound aided by an emotional pull from the audience.
“The percussion is based on clapping,” Hozier said. “So don’t be afraid to join in.”
The field of fans was nearly silenced, then clapped with the beat. It was a chilling performance, leading into Hozier’s biggest hit to date and the set’s finale, “Take Me to Church.”
“This is absolutely incredible,” Hozier told the crowd. “Thank you so much for this feeling.”
— Katie Colwell, @nkcolwell
Saturday night marked New Jersey-based indie pop group Bleachers’ Bonnaroo debut, but for its lead singer, Jack Antonoff, the performance signified a more personal achievement.
Antonoff, whose involvement in bands Steel Train and Fun. brought him to “The Farm” in 2005 and 2012, celebrated his “10th Bonnaroo anniversary” by giving the audience a show to remember.
After walking out on the packed-to-overflowing That Tent stage to the sounds of “Tomorrow,” the iconic song from Tony Award-winning Broadway play “Annie,” Bleachers played through its debut LP “Strange Desire,” an album full of catchy, indie-pop hooks and harmonies with a timeless, classic-rock undertone. Along with original music, the band also tossed in a dynamic cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.”
The group may not be a household name, but that’s quickly changing as songs such as “I Wanna Get Better” and “Rollercoaster” gain momentum, both of which were standouts during the high-energy set. Antonoff has a keen ability to keep the crowd moving, which can be credited to his years of experience and his spirited stage personality.
The riveting set ended with the frontman destroying his guitar and handing its tattered body to a fan. In simple terms, Bleachers is the epitome of a good time.
— Dylan Skye Aycock, @dylskye
Crowd surfing, mosh pits, mohawks and waist-level dreadlocks may be the best way to describe Slayer‘s Bonnaroo performance Saturday night.
One of the heavyweights of thrash metal, Slayer has built a loyal and diverse fan base throughout its more than 30-year career. And once the opening chord blew through the speakers at the This Tent, their rabid fans became, well, rabid.
Lead singer and bassist Tom Araya then proceeded to induce absolute bedlam.
“Before you see the light, you’ve got to die,” he said, kicking off “Angel of Death” from their breakthrough 1986 album “Reign in Blood.”
To close the set, guitarist Kerry King performed an intense solo, and amid the mayhem all you could see were hands in the air, with only the index finger and the pinky sticking up.
“‘Til we meet again,” Araya said as he walked off the stage, away from the mayhem.
— Evan Brown
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