Bonnaroo 2014 is in the rear-view mirror, and on a lot of levels, it was a great time.
The main reason for being there, of course, is for the music, and there was plenty of it. As expected, at least for me, Jack White, Tedeschi Trucks and the SuperJams were great. I didn’t stick around for Elton John since I’ve seen him.
Lionel Richie was entertaining, and it was surprising to me how he was a favorite for so many people. Listening to hit after hit, it occurred to me that he is perhaps the world’s best wedding singer, which is intended to be a left-handed compliment, I suppose.
But who were the surprises or the relative unknowns that stood out?
Janelle Monáe might be unknown to many, but her tightly choreographed set featured everyone, including the crew, dressed in white. The backing singers did wear black-and-white striped dresses. The crew wore lab coats and were part of the show, which was great.
It’s been fun watching the relatively fast rise of St. Paul & The Broken Bones, who played the very first Scenic City Roots here two years ago. It’s also fun watching lead singer Paul Janeway, who just doesn’t look like a performer, much less a soul singer, shock doubtful fans with his power, charisma and big sound. They were great.
The SuperJams, which get started about 12:30 each night, feature an eclectic mix of artists doing even more eclectic songs. They’ve become a huge favorite and a don’t-miss moment for many fans.
The Friday night SuperJam featured Derek Trucks, Taj Mahal, Willie Weeks, Chaka Khan, Karl Denson and Ben Folds. Mahal sang lead on “Statesboro Blues” and a great version of Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine,” and Khan knocked the crowd out with Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore.”
The High & Mighty Brass Band played the noon set on the smaller Sonic Stage and were also really good, as were Lucero.
The biggest disappointment was Kanye West, who many hoped would put things right after his infamous and underwhelming show in 2008, which started two and half hours late, even after being rescheduled from early evening to late night. This year, he interrupted his own songs to rant about how unfairly he was treated last time. He also spent a lot of time telling everyone how great he was.
At no time during any of the truly great shows this weekend did anyone onstage feel the need to verbally tell anyone of their greatness. They didn’t have to.
Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...