There were only a few musical disappointments at The Meadows this year, which makes narrowing down a top five very difficult.
I eventually chose the following, in no particular order, for their emotional impact and similarity to recorded quality. The evening headliners were not included because their clout is a given (M.I.A. pictured above and Jay-Z below).
With poise, prowess and a couple of background singers, Badu wowed the crowd as is her nature. Her vocals had a stronger, throatier quality than on most of her records as she made her way through classics “On & On,” and “Hello,” with an added kick from live drumming. In between songs she would strike a dramatic power pose, with one hand reaching up towards the sky and the other on her hip. The fans went nuts — even more so when she revealed that the stance “doesn’t mean anything at all.”
Amazingly, Badu found time on stage to talk about the power of unity as well as her fight against the unjust occupation of land. She both lectured and nurtured the audience as she described her life as a singer, mother, and activist.
It wasn’t just music; it was performance.
[+] BLOOD ORANGE
Blood Orange is an artist best experienced live. Browsing his Spotify will make you like — maybe not love — him, but his Meadows set on Friday night would turn even the snobbiest of music nerds into believers.
Gliding on stage a few minutes after sunset, the London musician introduced himself with a dreamy joint on the piano and then proceeded to, over the course of an hour, make me question whether or not Prince had actually died. A band supported him as he took listeners on a silky-smooth emotional roller coaster, which included a favorite of mine –“On The Line.” The veteran composer, producer, and lyricist melded genres (was it R&B or jazz or pop?) as he rounded out an outstanding set.
“Self-love is primary care,” yelled Lizzo to her mainstage audience on Friday afternoon. The theme of her set was empowerment. “It feels good to say ‘I’m a bad bitch’” said the 29-year-old emcee as she powered through a stirring performance featuring her twerking and stripping out of a puffy turquoise garment. Every song seemed to have more bass, more hype than the last — “Scuse Me,” and “Good As Hell” were excellent.
Lizzo’s show was beyond genuine. She was also hilarious, cracking jokes and calling out audience members throughout in a friendly way. It was impossible to leave her set without a smile on your face and a (totally justified) boosted sense of self-confidence.
[+] JOEY BADA$$
A son of New York and an already-seasoned rapper, Joey Badass played expertly. At just 22, he dominated the crowd like a man twice his age, starting with his dramatic entrance onstage, which was heralded by the reveal of a giant, paisley American flag (specifically the one on the cover of his new album, All Amerikkkan Badass). He then flowed through Badass, on which “Rockabye Baby,” and its well-known “If you got the guts scream ‘Fuck Donald Trump’” lyric carried the day.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Kirk Knight popped out and spit a couple of bars. The rest of Pro Era was not far behind him, piling onstage as “Devastated” ended the show and Joey jumped into the crowd.
[+] PUBLIC ACCESS T.V.
“Coming to you all the way from the East Village,” in the words of lead singer Jon Eatherly, Public Access T.V. brought its talents to The Meadows to let people know that rock isn’t dead. Reminiscent of The Strokes and replete with angsty musings and twangy guitar licks, the group knocked their set out of the park.
It took a couple of songs for them to find their rhythm, but Eatherly dazzled vocally and instrumentally, hitting the guitar hard. “On Location,” and “In Love and Alone,” were notably well-received by the midday crowd, which swayed and bobbed agreeably to the groove.
Pleasant would be a good descriptor for the set, but for the fact that punk tendencies were clearly brewing, though that added a positive, funky element to the show.
Public Access TV
Public Access TV
// JACOB BANKS
The London R&B singer poured his soul out on stage; even if you aren’t a fan of the genre, you absolutely need to check him out on Spotify. When Banks crooned that it was
“an absolute fucking pleasure,” at the end of his performance, the crowd felt the same way.
// MARIAN HILL
The pop duo was just as electronic and sultry as they are on their numerous radio hits. However, the best part of the show hands down was the presence of geeky sax player Steve Davit, whose accompaniments had the crowd going wild.
// OLD SCHOOL HIP-HOP: DE LA SOUL, LL COOL J
Aside from headliners Jay-Z and Nas, there were few other hip-hop acts with careers spanning several decades. LL Cool J (Featuring DJ Z-Trip) and golden age New York rap crew, De La Soul both delivered with typical excellence, but what was more intriguing was their ode to classic hip-hop. Phife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest) and his legacy were acknowledged and modern rappers (and fans) were warned to respect the old masters.