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Bonnaroo 2014 Saturday recap: Jack White and Lionel Richie stun on What Stage

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Saturday at Bonnaroo 2014 was a success as nearly 80,000 fans from around the world made their way into Centeroo for the festival’s third day. On tap today was offerings from headliner Jack White, a Skrillex-led Superjam, local favorites Cage the Elephant, and many more.

Our day’s musical journey began at This Tent where Swedish folk-pop duo First Aid Kit gave about as starkly different a representation of their nationality as could be possible from the previous night’s Late Night performance by metal band Meshuggah. The group’s tight vocal harmonies have gotten them a good deal of media attention and some radio play for their single “The Lion’s Roar.” Just days removed from the Tuesday release of their new album “Stay Gold”, First Aid Kit received a warm welcome from a huge crowd. Their set included a solid mix of old and new material, and even a spot-on cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America.”

Following First Aid Kit, the stage moved from Sweden to Athens, GA by way of Muscle Shoals, AL as Drive-By Truckers delivered a guitar heavy dose of straight up rock and roll. Seasoned Bonnaroo veterans, Drive-By Truckers are a perfect fit for the festival. They are the most prevalent modern standard bearers of the Southern rock traditions of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, and Charlie Daniels. Frontman Patterson Hood has perfected the Southern rocker’s balance of singer and storyteller, taking fans through a set filled with characters who were sometimes shady, sometimes inspiring, and always hilarious.

Following Drive-By Truckers, the party moved to What Stage where Hood’s fellow Alabama native Lionel Richie put on a 90 minute classic rock clinic. Many questioned Richie’s spot as the #4 artist on the Bonnaroo lineup initially, but it’s not likely anyone will do so after seeing him deliver. Between his solo work, his time with The Commodores, and co-writes like “We Are the World”, Richie had plenty of hits to fill his set and still leave plenty on the table. Richie’s stage banter was often hilarious, goofing on his age by mentioning all the bands backstage who wanted to tell him their parents loved him and call him “Mr. Richie” to announcing “I’d like to welcome to the stage Ms. Diana Ross! Well, I would, but I called and asked her if she’d come and she said No!” Richie promised his first Bonnaroo appearance wouldn’t be his last and, judging from the audience’s reaction, that’s just fine with them.

Next up was headliner Jack White. White has been to Bonnaroo plenty of times in the past, as a member of The White Stripes, Dead Weather, and The Raconteurs, but this was his first appearance as a solo artist and his first headlining show. Unsurprisingly from the noted musical perfectionist, White delivered a nearly flawless set. Opening and closing with White Stripes favorites “Icky Thump” and “Seven Nation Army”, White’s almost 2 hour long set hit on the highlights from his various projects as well as a healthy dose of songs from his just released second solo album “Lazaretto.”

Throughout the show, White was part instrumental hurricane and part tent revival preacher, throwing down dazzling guitar licks interspersed with numerous bits of commentary about the state of the world and the state of music. Following up on Kanye West’s now infamous “Where’s the press at?” rant the night before, White also took a shot, albeit a gentler one, at music journalists, asking the question “Who makes music happen? Does a tabloid like Rolling Stone make music happen? No. You and I make it exist!”

White’s set ran almost a half hour long but fans didn’t seem to mind at all. Long after the final notes of “Seven Nation Army” ushered him off stage, fans continued to sing and shout for him.

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