Ed Sheeran sang in the rain on at 2023 New Orleans Jazz Fest | Louisiana Festivals
When it rains, it does indeed pour, as Revivalists fans found out the hard way Saturday at the 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Just after they got soaked by a pouring rain, Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis announced from the main Festival Stage that the Revivalists had canceled at the last minute due to illness. They would not precede headliner Ed Sheeran after all.
On a more positive note, the long lines at the food and beverage booths that frustrated fest-goers Friday were far more manageable.
Perfect weather and a strong lineup resulted in a surprisingly large Friday crowd. Unfortunately, that was the same day vendors and customers navigated the learning curve of Jazz Fest’s new cashless payment system.
Likely due in part to an unfavorable forecast, Saturday attendance was significantly smaller, especially earlier. During the “lunchtime rush,” the wait for the popular cochon de lait po-boy was a scant three minutes.
Early in the day, before the rain, the 50-odd singers of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Gospel Choir had the crowd up and clapping in a three-beat cadence to a refrain of, “This is the way we praise him, clap your hands.”
Conjunto Tipico Samaritano, one of many Puerto Rican bands at this year’s fest, wove together five percussion and two stringed instruments in a rich tapestry.
Local vocalist Tonya Boyd-Cannon, a school music teacher by day, cautioned her students that only she could say “ain’t,” then wove Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” into her own “Rise My Child.”
“When Tonya Boyd-Cannon gets her Grammy, y’all can say, ‘I saw her at Jazz Fest 2023.’”
No one will likely see the Revivalists at Jazz Fest 2023.
Whatever illness struck Saturday, it was sudden. The band performed the previous night at the Fillmore without incident. The bandmembers arrived at the Fair Grounds on Saturday ready to continue their streak of celebratory Jazz Fest gigs.
Two hours before showtime, Revivalists drummers Andrew Campanelli and PJ Howard sat in with singer Maggie Koerner’s band for a cover of Nina Simone’s “Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter.”
The Revivalists’ cancellation was announced an hour later.
“Every time we get to play Jazz Fest, we count ourselves lucky to be a part of the best festival on earth,” Campanelli said in a text message, speaking for his disappointed bandmates.
“It’s personally my favorite show of the year every year. There’s nothing more disappointing than having to cancel our set.
“If there’s any way we could have pulled it off, we would have.”
Jazz Fest staffers scrambled to move guitarists Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton from the Shell Gentilly Stage to fill the Revivalists’ slot at the Festival Stage. The Soul Brass Band took Fish’s spot on the Gentilly Stage.
Fish, then, was the lead-in for Sheeran.
He made his Jazz Fest debut in 2015, headlining the Gentilly Stage. He returned to New Orleans in 2018 to headline the Superdome on Halloween night, standing alone in front of 37,000 fans.
His Saturday show at Jazz Fest was essentially a warm-up gig for the North American stadium tour he launches next weekend at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, right after the release of his new album.
And as he noted midway through his Jazz Fest set, “it’s been an interesting week for me.”
He spent part of it wearing a suit and tie inside a New York courtroom to defend himself in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the heirs of the co-writer of the Marvin Gaye classic “Let’s Get It On.” The suit alleges that Sheeran’s smash “Thinking Out Loud” copies elements of “Let’s Get It On.”
On Thursday, he played a snippet of “Thinking Out Loud” on the witness stand. Forty-eight hours later, he played the entirety of “Thinking Out Loud” at Jazz Fest. If he was perturbed by the lawsuit, he didn’t show it.
To the contrary, he was his affable, energetic self.
Since his busking days in London, he’s used a system of pedals that allow him to record and “loop” the sounds he makes onstage, thus building full arrangements in real time.
It is not a foolproof method. He stopped and restarted two songs, including “Shape of You.” “That’s how you know it’s really live,” he quipped.
Fans were happy to grant him a mulligan.
He prefaced songs with stories, organized audience singalongs and otherwise strove to fill a large space by himself. He advocated for a fervent chorus singalong in “Dive” by describing it as a “Michael Bolton on a mountain with an open shirt moment.”
He’d never performed “Eyes Closed,” a new song that eulogizes a late friend, in America prior to Jazz Fest. He knocked out “Love Yourself,” a song he wrote for fun that became a hit for Justin Bieber.
And he apologized for “bringing a bit of English weather with him.” Skies stayed gray during his set, but the rain held out.
At 7 p.m., his scheduled stop time, he enthused, “I’ve got two songs left!”
The weather objected: As he launched “Bad Habits,” the rain accompanied by a gusty wind, returned.
Undeterred, he rapped his way through “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.”
“It’s been a pleasure getting wet with you!” he said by way of farewell.
Singing in the rain, it seems, beats singing in a courtroom.