Quick reaction: ACL Weekend 2, Day 1 — Best song performances


It’s Saturday morning as I finish this up, and it’s raining outside as we prepare to set out for Day 2 of ACL. Superb. I’ll have complete thoughts on everything I’ve seen once the festival is over, but here are some quick notes on a handful of my favorite single-song performances from Day 1, where Paul McCartney showed why he’s Paul Friggin’ McCartney.

Paul McCartney, “Blackbird” — Just Paul and his acoustic guitar on a rising platform as celestial imagery filled the front of the platform and the stage’s backdrop. In a set full of both spectacular music and visuals, this sparer moment was one of the most moving.

Bishop Briggs, “Baby” — Briggs’ whole thing is grand, anthemic pop-rock power, and she does it well. But she’s rarely as playful as she is on “Baby,” and the change of pace was welcome. She introduced this one as “my first-ever love song,” but it’s really not one — it’s about a bad-boy boyfriend with the type of strengths that aren’t supposed to outweigh his profound weaknesses, but do anyway. Briggs looked amusingly sheepish as she finished the lines, “Doin’ stupid shit/When he drinks too much/But he looks good in leather so I don’t give a fuck.” A little bit of levity from a singer who’s otherwise aiming to rule the world with her throat.

Alvvays, “Archie, Marry Me” — In a set full of great, dreamy rock tunes, Alvvays  saved its most soaring song for last. The Canadian indie masters achieved seeming musical perfection throughout their set, with singer Molly Rankin nailing every note and dynamic.

The National, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” — The delicious guitar tone, seemingly edgier and more distorted than the studio version, helped get the National’s set off to a strong start in one of their most radio-friendly tunes.

Jungle, “Happy Man” — All of Jungle’s set was a try-not-to-dance-to-this party, but “Happy Man’s” funky chorus flew as high or higher than the rest. Guaranteed that I’ll have more to say about Jungle once the weekend’s over.

Paul McCartney, “Something” — Paul began George Harrison’s career-best song with a ukulele George had given him, then lapsed into a full-band performance to give the Abbey Road classic the complete treatment. A fine mix of giving an all-time great love song both something different and something familiar.

Rain stopped — that’s encouraging. Here’s hoping it holds off. Zilker calls.

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