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Live Reviews

2012 Voodoo Experience: New Orleans, Louisiana, October 26-28, 2012

By Published: December 14, 2012
While the Features rocked out on the WWOZ Stage, the Preservation Hall Stage played home to the New Orleans Nightingales, a review featuring (among others) Ingrid Lucia, Kristin Diable, Holly Benson, Debbie Davis, Alexandra Scot, Banu Gibson, Jayna Morgan, Meschiya Lake, Lina Prima and Holly Bendtsen). Backed by a stellar band (led by Alex McMurray on guitar and trombonist Craig Klein of Bonerama), this showcase for female vocalists of blues, jazz and traditional songs featured amazing performances of "Ballin' The Jack" (as sung by Morgan), "Easy Rider" (with lead vocals by Gibson) and Debbie Davis' stunning "Mama Goes Where Papa Goes." Special guest Irma Thomas, resplendent in gold lame, got a chuckle out of the crowd by stating, "Until I get warm, I'm keeping on my cape...okay!" She then thrilled the crowd with superb versions of "Until Tomorrow," "Take A Look At The Girl" and "Please Don't Take My Man." As its set closer the entire group came together to sing a rousing version of "You Gotta See Mama."

One of the standouts of the day was AWOLNATION on the Le Ritual stage. The group, fronted by Aaron Bruno (formerly of Under the Influence of Giants, Hometown Hero and Insurgence), is signed to Red Bull Records in a partnership that formed after he was approached by the label in 2009 and offered use of the studio in Los Angeles. Introduced by New Orleans Hornet Anthony Davis, AWOLNATION was clearly a highly anticipated act. With the talents of Drew Stewart, who donned a Metallica shirt in honor of another of the headliners, Kenny Carkeet, David Amezcua and Hayden Scott, the band took the crowd by storm with a raucous rendition of "Megalithic Symphony" followed by hits "Guilty Filthy Soul," "Not Your Fault," "Sail" (played with a slightly slower tempo than the studio version), "Wake Up" and "Burn It Down" in its nearly 60 minute set. Bruno engaged the crowd, saying, "Party people in the back, I see you!" and then took off his gray hoodie sweatshirt to get down to business. He threw down the challenge early on, asking "Who's gonna be the first to crowd surf today?" and noting, "You VIP people, you're not really into that kind of thing, right? I dare you!" The crowd went nuts when Bruno himself decided to surf out into the crowd.

Another huge crowd favorite was the alternative rock band Silversun Pickups. Brian Aubert, Sara Negahdari, Christopher Guarlao and Joe Lester took the Le Ritual Stage to ridiculous cheers and catcalls. Hits played included "Panic Switch," "Skin Graph," "Lazy Eye," "The Royal We" and "Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)." The band's set was pleasing but overall seemed to be missing something. That something may very well have been Nikki Monninger, who was on maternity leave. Replacement bassist Negahdari was spot-on and technically strong, but the band and its alternating hard and soft instrumentation appeared to lack some chemistry and spontaneity.

Dave Stewart, formerly half of the extremely popular and talented Eurythmics with Annie Lennox, took over the SONY Stage, marking a fascinating frame in an ornately decorated suit including quotes sewn on the appendages and even a blackbird on his leg, under a red, velvet curtain billowing in the early evening breeze. In support of his The Ringmaster General CD (Surfdog, 2012), Stewart wowed the crowd with bluesy tunes while grinning through his beard and cutting a dashing figure in his dark sunglasses and black top hat. He didn't disappoint fans, harkening back to his roots and playing "Here Comes the Rain Again" as well as inviting the Soul Rebels on stage with him for a version of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)."

Metallica closed day two on the Le Ritual Stage with a flourish. Signed at the last minute as substitutes for Green Day (as Billie Joe had signed himself into rehab after his meltdown at the IHEARTRADIO Festival in Las Vegas), wowed the crowd with an extremely entertaining and electrified two-hour set. Guitarist James Hetfield had some fun with the audience as the band played the opening riff to "American Idiot" and he announced, "We're Green Day, just a little taller." The band's performance touched on all phases of its long and storied career: "Hit the Lights," "Master of Puppets," "Fade To Black," "Blackened," "All Nightmare Long" "Holier Than Thou," and "Orion," after which Hetfield said, "God bless Mr. Clifford Lee Burton" (in a nod to the late bassist Cliff Burton who wrote much of the song), "One," "Enter Sandman," "Creeping Death" and the show closers "Battery" (which Hetfield dedicated to Green Day's front man by telling the crowd, "This one's for Billie," and "Seek And Destroy."

Day 3: Sunday, October 28th

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