Starting the day off right with soul/folk-rock artist Michael Kiwanuka, the Bluesfest Gods were smiling, as the sun shone and the Mojo tent filled with eager punters. He kicked off his set with a stunning eleven-minute song released this year titled Cold Little Heart, which has a four-minute instrumental start. Once the photographers had left the pit fan and actor Jason Mamoa entered, cheering at the end of each track. Michael brought guest vocalist Emily Holligan out for Rule the World, combining his smooth tones with her voluminous voice.
The second showing of legend Patti Smith didn’t disappoint, with her acoustic set being a nice contrast to her presence on the Mojo stage on Thursday. She opened with a tribute to her poetry roots, reading from Allen Ginsburg and her book Just Kids. Closing her set with a slightly different rendition of her song Beneath the Southern Cross, which was originally recorded with Jeff Buckley.
Bonnie Raitt brought a touch of the American south with her, opening with Unintended Consequences of Love. Making a short statement about the political climate in America at the moment she said, ‘It’s been an absolute pleasure being here with all of the insanity that’s going on at home at the moment. I’m headed back there tomorrow and we’ll have to see what we can do to make things better’ before launching into her track Earthquake. With a great cover of INXS’s One of My Kind she had the Crossroads stage packed with grooving bodies.
You have to have a solid fan base to play at the same time as Mary J. Blige and still pull a crowd, but that’s exactly what The Lumineers did. The American folk-rock band opened with Ophelia, encouraging the crowd to sing along, which they did en masse. In an unusual move for a gig the band played their biggest hit Ho Hey for their third song, rather than their last, which didn’t diminish the crowd numbers at the Crossroads stage at all. Just before launching into Earthquake the lead singer Wesley Schultz said, ‘We’ve been having marches for women in America recently and my mother and wife both marched. I’m proud to be surrounded by such strong women and this is a song about another strong woman.’
Christie: Mary-fricken-J-Blige is a true diva! From the moment she stepped onto the Mojo stage she completely owned it. With moves better than half of the twenty year olds on the dance floor, a voice that still manages to hit all of the right notes and sass to fill buckets – she was incredible. With over thirty years of discography to select from she mixed songs like Mr Wrong with Family Affair that had everyone jumping.
Gina: While I genuinely thought that Patti Smith was going to be my highlight for a second day in a row, holy cow the Mountain Goats were amazing! They captivated the crowd with their fantastic set, filled with songs like Harlem Roulette. Lead singer John Darnielle is humorous, even with lyrics that are dark and cynical – leaving you unsure of whether to laugh, cry or just give in and do both.
Photo credit: Gina Martin