Saturday at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival drew several big acts, but several local groups were too good to miss.
Sure, the legendary Eagles in front of a crowd that was so perilously packed that one wrong move could have caused a sinkhole.
But they are Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, and Don Henley, Glen Frey and Co., put together flawless harmonies to the delight of the tens of thousands at the Acura Stage. From his perch atop the stage, Henley announced that there must be 65,000 people.
They opened with a near-perfect rendering “Seven Bridges Road” to iconic standards, and used a Spanish-inspired trumpet solo to announce “Hotel California.”
Other hits included “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “Witchy Woman,” but at the end of the day, the Eagles took it back to their roots, offering an encore of their first smash, “Take It Easy.”
My Morning Jacket was another headliner, and with it being Derby Day back in their hometown of Louisville, Ky, the rockers came to celebrate. Frontman Jim James did mention that he had a horse named after him running in the race, so MMJ was apparently represented back on home turf, too.
MMJ’s set ran the course of their career, playing such songs as the ballad “Golden” off 2003′s It Still Moves and “Holdin’ On to Black Metal” from last year’s Circuital.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a My Morning Jacket show without their monumental closer, “One Big Holiday,” and the group had something special in mind. James welcomed the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to the stage, and the audience exploded as the opening riff rang out into the night.
Later, MMJ joined the eight-member jazz ensemble for a show at the French Quarter’s Preservation Hall. That intimate affair reportedly ended with the PHJB and members of My Morning Jacket actually taking to the streets as they performed the city’s iconic tune “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Both of the massive headlining acts were superb, but there were others that are from the Big Easy who stood out, as well.
Here is a look at some bands who caught our eye:
An Anders Osborne live show is a clinic in how to be a rock guitar god.
The fact that the Swedish-born musician is a long time resident of New Orleans only further endeared him to the crowd.
Never mind the mind-blowing diversity he had throughout his electrifying set at the Gentilly Stage.
With the crowd packed and the humidity hitting a high, Osborne spared no expense and was limited to no boundaries. There were songs that featured an extended spacey groove (“Burning on the Inside”), rocking standards like “Mind of a Junkie,” or ballads such as “Louisiana Gold,” and Osborne had the massive crowd loving every minute.
Just to see him joined by only – only – a three-piece string accompaniment on “Higher Ground” showed that Osborne could not just hang out amongst the pantheon of guitarists, but it also demonstrated that he easily branches into different directions.
A six-piece indie rock outfit out of New Orleans, MyNameIsJohnMichael began as a solo project when singer John Michael Rouchell was challenged to write, record and release 52 songs over the course of one year. A little bit into that project, the band was born and a 2009 debut – The People That Come and Go – came out.
Now, the band is working on new endeavors, with fresh tunes ready to download on their official website and a tight live show with a ton of energy.
Playing at the Gentilly Stage, Rouchell told a story of how he nearly quit music because he was broke and had seemingly fired his last bullet, but one day when he went to his record collection and found the iconic Irma Thomas’ “Breakaway,” he knew he couldn’t give up the dream.
MyNameIsJohnMichael brings a lot to the table with their bombastic, bluesy, Big Easy roots mixed in with a fair share of softer tunes.
Another New Orleans rock band, Better Than Ezra has played Jazz Fest many times before, but as bassist Tom Drummond noted early in their show, those gathered at the Gentilly Stage lawn rivaled none they band had ever seen at the event.
With a sea of creative flags sailing above the capacity audience, Better Than Ezra launched into a set that included several of their hits – “Good,” “Extra Ordinary” and “Desperately Wanting.”
The group also played a brand new song that singer Kevin Griffin announced they had only played live three times. Unfortunately, he didn’t cough up its name.
Still, the highlight might just have when Bonerama’s horn section came out for “Kings of New Orleans.”
It was a powerful moment that the band teased on its official Facebook page, and the addition paid off in spades.
Many from around the Louisiana area have called Thomas the “Queen of Soul,” and perhaps that is rightfully so.
She certainly made a strong bid for that title on Saturday at the Acura Stage.
High-energy and emotional, Thomas ran the gamut. She sang “In the Middle Of It All,” an emotional tune that is featured on Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too soundtrack. Thomas told the crowd that it was a “long time” to be able to sing it without crying.
Thomas also got a little frisky with “Hip-Shakin’ Woman,” however.
The audience was patiently waiting for her to go into her signature song, “It’s Raining,” and when she did, there were a few lovey-doveys doing a little slowdance in the grass.
All in all, bands and artists hailing from the New Orleans area were big stars on Saturday. Despite the presence of bigger names, NOLA representing has been a theme throughout Jazz Fest 2012.