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Riff's favorite concerts of 2021 is starring Jon Batiste at BottleRock Napa Valley

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Riff - Roman Gokhman writes…..Concerts began returning in 2021 as artists cautiously hit the road, still balancing their safety and health with their livelihoods. Some of us couldn’t wait to step back into the clubs, arenas and festivals, while others are still waiting and hoping the pandemic gets squashed completely. A few of us compiled a list of our favorite shows, including the likes of Jon Batiste at BottleRock and Beck in Los Angeles. If you haven’t yet, please get vaccinated and get boosted so we can find that new normal everyone keeps talking about.

Most music fans know of Jon Batiste now that he’s been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards (for multiple albums). But back in September I was looking forward to seeing him more out of curiosity than expectation, and he and his band blew me away with the best performance I’ve seen in years. It not only impressed me on a technical level or with flashy production (the blow-up props and barbecue equipment were pretty lo-fi) but moved me on a personal level.

Or, to put it another way: I was thinking Jon Batiste would play some jazz, maybe some songs from his Grammy-nominated companion album for the film “Soul,” he unleashed a torrent of funky love instead. Jon Batiste was a cross between a preacher, a carnival barker and a therapist, and performed like he was anointed by God. The New Orleans native and his band members were dressed like they were going to be in a second line parade, in various colorful uniforms. Batiste danced, jammed on different guitars, attacked the grand piano, shook his butt and said some really meaningful stuff about self-worth and hope and living in the moment.

On “WHATCHUTALKINBOUT,” Batiste sounded like has was scatting at times. He also sped through “We Are” and “I Need You.” He and the other singers had some pre-planned interaction on a medley of Bob Marley’s “One Love,” Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.” He jammed on a melodica a few times as well. On “TELL THE TRUTH,” he was at one point convulsing on the stage floor.