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Mavis Staples, Nathaniel Rateliff, Mumford & Sons and more played WFUV Holiday Cheer 2019 (pics)

Tuesday night at The Beacon Theatre, local radio station WFUV held its 15th annual Holiday Cheer for FUV benefit. Program Director Rita Houston kicked off the evening by introducing rising UK country-folk artist Yola, who played a short 30 minute set that included new material and a cover of Elton John’s “Yellow Brick Road.” She’ll be returning to New York with a headlining date at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on January 8 in the new year.

A late addition to the lineup was Mumford & Sons, who last week headlined a different radio station’s much bigger holiday show (Alt 92.3’s Not So Silent Night at Barclays Center). They did a quick acoustic set which included the live debut of “October Skies,” and finished with fan favorite, “The Cave.” Marcus Mumford told an anecdote about when he was backstage at a festival and was talking about Mavis Staples (who’d play later in the night) being the Queen, and Elton John was within earshot and was jokingly offended that Mumford did not also designate that title to him.

Rocker Nathaniel Rateliff returned, who joined John Prine on stage at Holiday Cheer last year, returned again but this time, he was without his backing band, The Night Sweats, and played a somber solo acoustic set while seated and mostly in the dark. He finished his set talking about reaching out and helping those in need, and dedicated the last song to his friend, Richard Swift, who sadly passed away last year, while performing with tears in his eyes.

To close out the night, headliner Mavis Staples  — who has had a very busy 80th birthday year with her celebratory show at the Apollo Theater in May, Newport Folk Festival in July and opening for Brandi Carlile at MSG in September, on top of releasing an album, We Get By — and her band took to the stage. With her band that included guitarist Rick Holstrom, bassist Jeff Turmes and backing vocalists and Donny Gerrard and Saundra Williams, Mavis plays a set that included a cover of Talking Heads “Slippery People,” her song with Jeff Tweedy, “You’re Not Alone,” and a great track titled “Touch a Hand,” during which she came to the edge of the stage and shook hands with a number of people in the audience and encouraged people to reach out to a stranger and touch a hand.

Unfortunately, the evening ran long and, with the venue having a hard curfew at 11 PM, Mavis and her band abruptly finished their set with no encore, followed immediately by the house lights. A look at the setlist reveals that the encore was to have been the classic ensemble song “The Weight” by The Band, and with all the talent present in the house that evening, the missed opportunity would have surely been a closer to remember. Pictures from the whole night are in the gallery above.

Nathaniel Rateliff will be back in NYC for two nights at Town Hall on March 12 & 13 which are both with Sam Evian and Hannah Cohen. Tickets are on presale now and go on sale to the general public on Friday (12/13) at 10 AM.

photos by Ellen Qbertplaya

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