Newport Folk Festival 2016- Sunday
After a scorching first two days at Newport, I was tired. But the lineup on Sunday was definitely the most exciting. From start to finish, the acts on Sunday were incredible.
When I arrived to see Joan Shelley at the Harbor Stage, I was already moved by her previous great performances. Shelley put out a masterful album this year and emphasized her plaintive voice and unique guitar. Nathan Salzburg, Shelley’s lead guitarist, knew just when to jump in and when to pull back. His picking seemed effortless and fit in the spot to maximize the impact of the song. Shelley started with three tunes from her most recent record “Over and Even” including the title track, “Stay on my Shore,” and the masterful “Easy Now.” The performance seemed like the folk festival’s best kept secret as the sparse crowd filled in to see the two perform and with good reason.
Though I’ve lost track of Glen Hansard from his days as the lead in the film Once, I was quickly reminded of his vocal power. He took the Fort stage with himself and a guitar and proceeded to blow the crowd away. His voice was both powerful and emotional. He played “Falling Slowly” from Once, then several tracks which I surprisingly knew “Winning Streak” and “Astral Weeks.” Then Elvis Costello made an appearance playing tambourine. Hansard needed only himself and the guitar (and the occasional tambourine guest star) to bring the crowd to the feet.
Middle Brother, with Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes, John McCauley from Deer Tick, and Matthew Logan Vasquez from Delta Spirit, was a band that had certainly gotten some buzz at the festival. I’d seen McCauley two years ago at the festival and heard of Dawes, but I was very impressed by the band. The three lead singers actually felt like a three headed group (not a staged “super-group” for one album). The most straight looking one, Goldsmith, was also the most impressive. He seemed to command the stage and sing the tunes with an effortless and impressive voice and licks on the guitar.
Then came Elvis Costello. The man had the most ebullient performance. He had so many songs that I didn’t know the first few but felt his undeniable energy from the start. But he soon invited “the Middle Brother” (Taylor Goldsmith) on the stage and sang one of his only well known singles, “Every Day I Write the Book.” The tune was masterful and brought the crowd in for a sing-a-long. They tore into “King of America” as well. After that, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined Costello on stage and the performance really took off. Costello has such a broad range of influence and talent that he brought to the performance that even those who did not know his history seemed to come away with a new appreciation of his performance.
From there, about the only band that could bring the festival to a close was Alabama Shakes. The band used most of their set to play tunes from their newer album Sound & Color and the crowd was quickly on their feet. They did play favorites “Heartbreaker,” “Rise to the Sun,” and “You Ain’t Alone” from their tour-de-force debut album Boys & Girls. The band then brought the festival to a close with a powerful cover “Night Moves” with the help of Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes. A fitting end to the Newport Folk Festival. Not sure how they’ll be able to top this one next year.
Photos by Suzanne Davis McMahon
About the author: Jeff is a teacher in the Boston area. When not buried correcting papers, Jeff can be found plucking various stringed instruments and listening to all types of americana music.