Nostalgia was thick in the air for the opening afternoon of Woodstock '99 in Rome, New York on Friday, as artists both young and old took a look back at the history of the fabled music fest (as well as rock in general) during the first full day of performances.
Legendary Godfather of Soul James Brown, who by all rights should have played the inaugural edition of Woodstock back in 1969, made up for lost time by delivering a set of crowd favorites, including "Get Up Offa That Thing," "Mother Popcorn," and "Living in America."
But Brown surprised the early crowd with an absolute rave-up of "Purple Haze," a number in which his 20-piece band delved into the blues roots of Jimi Hendrix's psychedelic classic. Brown's crowd-warmer, singer Bobbie Ray, helped set the mood for Brown's set by belting out a pair of Janis Joplin tunes, "Mercedes Benz" and "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)."
Philadelphia's G. Love and Special Sauce admirably stepped in for Sugar Ray as a last-minute substitution (see "Sugar Ray Off Woodstock As McGrath Takes Ill"), although it was hard to tell whether the audience's withered response had more to do with dashed expectations or the sweltering heat. Wielding his harmonica and slide guitar, G. Love broke out into an extended "Woodstock" scat before revisiting the spirit of the '60s with a faithful reading of Donovan's "Season of the Witch."
G. Love closed out his set, which featured numerous calls for the security to hose the crowd down with water to offset the rising temperatures, by incorporating an audience call and response as an intro for his indie hit, "Cold Beverage."
Reminding the audience of the group's Woodstock pedigree (having also played Woodstock II back in 1994), Live drew the majority of its live show from its "Throwing Copper" LP (also released in '94), including thunderously definitive versions of "I Alone" and "All Over You."
In a more somber moment, Live dedicated "Lightning Crashes" to the memory of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn, and his sister-in-law Lauren Bessette before leaving the stage to the adulation of the crowd, which had easily swelled to close to a quarter of a million people by midday.
Sheryl Crow, another repeat performer from Woodstock '94 who knows a thing or two about delivering hits (and winning Grammys for them), capped off the afternoon with such crowd-pleasers as "If It Makes You Happy" and a revamped take on her signature tune, "All I Wanna Do."
But when you get to work with the likes of Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, then you probably know a thing or two about songwriting. Crow demonstrated the depth of her own songbook with sloppy, but head-bobbin', renditions of second-tier tunes such as "A Change" and "Am I Getting Through?"