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Panorama was plagued with bad luck, but St Vincent, SZA & Janet Jackson made up for it

NYC’s Panorama music festival is currently in its third year, and it hasn’t been having the best luck this year. First, one of the main attractions, Cardi B, had to drop off the festival, and she was replaced by Lil Wayne, whose day 2 set was cancelled 20 minutes after his advertised set time (“due to weather conditions, Lil Wayne’s flight has been delayed and he is unable to perform”). That was one day after day 1 was cancelled halfway through due to weather, forcing The Weeknd, Migos, The War on Drugs, Father John Misty, and more to cancel their sets.

Needless to say, things were not looking upwards for Panorama by Saturday evening, but fortunately, that all changed once St. Vincent took the stage, and the festival stayed on a high through the end of Saturday. I don’t know if St. Vincent thought she had to play extra hard to win over the disappointed crowds, or for some other reason everything just clicked in the right way on Saturday, but this was by far the best show I’ve seen on the MASSEDUCTION tour (it was my third). She’s been doing a few different types of sets supporting this album: high concept pop-art solo shows, a stripped down piano sets with Doveman, and a rock band set up with four members on stage in a straight line (including two wearing faceless masks). The latter was what she did at Panorama, and she really leaned into the “rock band” aspect of it at this show. She was wailing on her guitar in just about every song, adding all kinds of rock god embellishments that aren’t on the album and playing with Hendrix-y feedback. For an artist who can sometimes choreograph her shows to the point of perfection, it was awesome to be reminded of how well she can rock out and get improvisational. (She’s shown off this side before… remember “Krokodil” at Coachella 2012?) She mostly played off the new album, save for a few choice older cuts like “Cruel,” “Cheerleader,” “Digital Witness,” and “Marrow,” and each song she played resonated as strongly as the last. The MASSEDUCTION songs have really settled in with her fans at this point, and it feels like they just get better as time goes on. Like she’s done at many other shows this year, she did “Fast Slow Disco,” the danceable, sped-up version of the “Slow Disco” ballad from MASSEDUCTION, and then she ended her set with another sped-up version of a MASSEDUCTION ballad (and an apt closer given the location of this show), “New York.” She turned the somber, piano-fueled song into a head-nodding singalong, took the mic and went to the front of the stage, and had everybody eating out of the palms of her hands. Are we getting “Fast New York” soon??

The way Panorama is set up this year is with two stages for live acts (Panorama Stage and The Pavilion), which are both generally in the same area, and then across the way is The Point, an outdoor dance club with DJ sets all day. So if you’re mostly there for the live acts, it’s basically a two-stage festival with one act starting as soon as the other ended, meaning no conflicts and minimal walking required. As soon as St. Vincent wrapped up on The Pavilion, it was over to the Panorama Stage, where SZA began her set just five or so minutes later.

Like St. Vincent, SZA made one of the very best albums of 2017 (our Top 50 Albums of 2017 list had them at #3 and #2, respectively), and SZA kept her set entirely to songs from that album (Ctrl). Usually she breaks out a couple songs from her early mixtapes and EPs at headlining shows, but given the shorter set you get at a festival, it made sense that she stuck to only stuff from her breakthrough release. (I was disappointed that she didn’t play her Kendrick collab “All the Stars” from Black Panther, though.) And as with St. Vincent, every song was a crowdpleaser. SZA is backed by an ace band, including a keyboardist, a drummer, and a person who switches between guitar, bass, and electronics, and their lively instrumentation is a big part of why she sounded so great, but really SZA herself is the star. She runs around stage, dances, shows off a ton of attitude, raps along to the Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott guest verses on her songs, and really belts some parts in a way she usually refrains from doing on album. She seems like she was born to perform, and her unforgettable stage presence had the crowd shrieking over and over. Her set also reminded you that Ctrl just keeps on feeling more and more like a greatest hits collection. Five of the songs she played from it have been released as singles — one as recently as last month (“Garden [Say It Like Dat]”) — and even the ones that haven’t been, like opener “Supermodel” and closer “20 Something,” felt just as huge during her Panorama set.

About last night @SZA @michaeldrummondphoto

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SZA and St. Vincent were both focusing their sets on very new albums, but the day’s headliner, Janet Jackson, played a set with songs dating back at least a full generation. There were some parts that were clearly dated (her dancers were very ’80s/’90s), but the amazing thing was how naturally her music worked with everything else on Saturday’s lineup. Her influence can be felt on a good amount of today’s music — SZA and St. Vincent are both probably influenced by her — and so many of her songs sounded timeless. (She also made her influence even clearer when she played “Any Time, Any Place,” and then had part of Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice,” which samples “Any Time, Any Place,” play over the PA.) Her voice is still out of this world, her band was fantastic, and the crowd was filled with people dancing more than it was for any other set I saw on Saturday. If you had any doubt that Janet could headline a festival with much younger acts, that doubt was instantly erased.

Janet had some serious moments in her set, like an opening featuring footage of white supremacy and terrorism, before she played her 1990 anti-racism b-side “The Skin Game (Part 1),” and when she showed a video montage during “Together Again” of her father Joe Jackson, who recently passed away, but mostly her set was all positive and uplifting. (She also paid tribute to her brother Michael by showing clips of him when she played their collaborative “Scream.) Her dancers staged a dance-off, she got nostalgic by playing a bunch of old music videos on the screen behind her, and it seemed like she couldn’t stop smiling the entire time. She played songs from the 1980s right next to songs from the 2000s, and everything flowed seamlessly. She’s been a force for decades, she still is one today, and this headlining festival performance made that very, very clear.

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At Panorama day 2, we also caught sets by Gucci Mane (who brought out his wife, and Asian Doll) and Japanese Breakfast (who covered The Cranberries’ “Dreams” and DJed a BrooklynVegan afterparty on the Upper East Side later that night). Pictures of day 2 are in the gallery above, and Janet’s setlist, and a few more video clips of St. Vincent, Janet, and SZA, are below.

Panorama wraps up today (7/29) with The Killers, The xx, Fleet Foxes, David Byrne, and more. Stay tuned for more coverage. UPDATE: Day 3 pics and review HERE.

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Energy was on 10 tonight! Let’s go! @Sza #panorama

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Garden . A Mood. @sza #panaromafest

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How good does she sound right @sza x @panoramanyc @posnoventista

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Janet Jackson at Panorama 2018 Setlist (via)
The Skin Game (Part 1)
The Knowledge
BURNITUP!
Nasty / Feedback / Miss You Much / Alright / You Want This
Control / What Have You Done for Me Lately / The Pleasure Principle
Interlude (Contains elements of “Dammn Baby” and “Night)
Love Will Never Do (Without You)
When I Think of You / All For You
All Nite (Don’t Stop)
Runaway
When We Oooo
Feels So Right
Doesn’t Really Matter
DJ Interlude
Come Back to Me / Let’s Wait Awhile (Instrumental video interlude)

Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)
I Get Lonely
Any Time, Any Place
What’s It Gonna Be?! (Busta Rhymes song)
No Sleeep
Got ’til It’s Gone
That’s the Way Love Goes
So Much Betta
Throb
Together Again
Interlude (Interlude with “Idle” by Spooky Black)
What About
You Ain’t Right
If
Scream (Michael Jackson song)
Rhythm Nation

Encore:
State of The World

photos by Amanda Hatfield

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