It was being billed as “Superjam—Questlove, With Very Special Guests.” But at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee on Saturday (July 10) night music fans got so much more when the Roots’ drummer introduced D’Angelo.
It was the first U.S. performance for the legendary R&B artist—who in recent months had performed warm-up dates in Europe but had not stepped foot on an American stage in more than 10 years.
“I’ve been waiting 12 years to say this: Ladies and gentleman, D’Angelo!” proclaimed Quest as the soul rebel was joined by a nine-piece band which included the Roots’ afro’d frontman, frequent collaborator James Poyser, bassist Pino Palladino, and former Time guitarist Jesse Johnson. But if stunned onlookers were expecting a run through of some of D’Angelo’s biggest hits during his hour plus set, they were surely mistaken.
Michael Eugene Archer led the powerful unit through surprising set of covers that featured Band of Gypsys’ “Power of Soul,” the Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” Funkadelic’s “Hit It and Quit It,” and Led Zeppelin’s “What is and What Should Never Be.” Questlove hinted at the big surprise, which had been rumored Bonnaroo’s backstage for hours.
“What I wanted to do was recreate the magic of the songwriting process at the time when I was taking residency in Electric Lady Studios,” he told MTV. “I made that my central location from 1996 ’til about 2004, and during that time that’s where D’Angelo’s Voodoo album as created, Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides was created, and even some of Phrenology and The Tipping Point was created. That was really the central location for our soul querying catalog, so what I’ve done [for the Superjam] is gathered a cast of characters to show what a night in that period was like.”
At the center of all the attention was D’Angelo, who was reportedly in fine form following a decade of battles with drugs and some embarrassing arrests. There’s talk of a much-anticipated comeback album later this year, his first since the Grammy-winning 2000 release Voodoo. D’Angelo is set to appear at Essence Music Festival in New Orleans in July.
—Keith Murphy, CBS Local