For this, the final day of Outside Lands 2012, the festival included perhaps its single biggest score: a headlining slot from Stevie Wonder. Unlike the full-metal onslaught of Metallica on day two, and the long-winded jams of Neil Young & Crazy Horse on day one, Wonder’s set potentially meant a cornucopia of unforgettable soul hits. Would he deliver? We’ve seen him do well, but not excellently in the past.
The answer is, mostly. Wonder arrived playing a keytar in front of a large band. After a meandering jam the band started playing segments of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” taking several minutes to prompt the crowd to singalong with wordless melodies. Early on in the set, it felt as though most of the performance would be excessive jams like this. Thankfully, from there a smattering of his greatest songs were sprinkled through the duration. The funked-out jubilation of “Higher Ground” led into a cover of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Later, he evolved “Overjoyed” into a small section of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” “My Cherie Amour,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours),” and “Living for the City” came next, with “My Cherie Amour” delivering the most beautiful moments of the set. On the other hand, “I Just Called to Say I Love You” was curiously performed with a corny Casio-keyboard calypso beat. “Superstition” and “Isn’t She Lovely” kept the positive spirit alive, but every few songs, Wonder would seemingly lose focus, and jam out a random melody before starting the next proper song. A cover of The Temptations’ “My Girl” closed out the set strong, but it’s hard not to wish that the full two hours could have been a focused set of hit-after-hit.
Just a little earlier in the day, the most anticipated performer of the weekend, Jack White, did a commanding set on the same stage. Impressive considering only two hours before his main stage performance, White did a surprise bonus performance by the Choco Lands area of the festival near the Third Man Rolling Records truck with his all-female band The Peacocks. For the main stage set, Jack used his all-male band Los Buzzardos. White’s voice sounded slightly hoarse (perhaps because of a pretty rigorous couple of weeks of nonstop touring) but performed with all the fire and nerve he’s known for. Songs from his recent solo album Blunderbuss “Take Me With You When You Go,” “Freedom at 21” and “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” were fun and well arranged even if they were far less known by the capacity crowd. Woven throughout the remainder were a selection of Jack White’s most beloved songs including “Two Against One” from Danger Mouse/Daniele Luppi’s ROME album, The White Stripes’ “I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends” and “Same Boy You’ve Always Known” and The Dead Weather’s “Cut Like a Buffalo.” The set ended with the most logical choice “Seven Nation Army,” the song drawn out to accentuate it’s numerous unforgettable verses and melodies.
Other strong acts on the final day of the festival were Santigold (who had the bad luck of having a set running exactly at the same time as Jack White’s performance), Regina Spektor, Franz Ferdinand and Trampled By Turtles. Santigold dropped enticing melodies with her top-notch flow and confident vocals. Regina Spektor played a charming if not out-of-place in a festival set, that included early career hits “Fidelity” and “Samson.” Franz Ferdinand drew an immense crowd for an early afternoon set, doing a solid job of exciting the crowd with their angular dance rock. And right at the beginning of the day Trampled by Turtles took pickin’ and grinnin’ bluegrass showmanship to new levels, taking fiddle and mandolin solos and making the mounting crescendos an eye-opening exhibition of their skill.