Rumors of potential setmates ranged from The White Stripes guitarist Jack White to Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. Neither made an appearance on Saturday night, but fans were delighted by D'Angelo's first stateside appearance in 12 years.
The Roots drummer Questlove introduced D'Angelo along with The Time guitarist Jesse Johnson, bassist Pino Palladino and others as part of a nine-piece band. Questlove said he was inspired by past studio jam sessions in putting together his all-star band.
This is what we used to do at the studio. We'd just go through the catalog of all my favorite songs. What you're literally seeing is the process, us jamming here tonight, Questlove told the crowd.
Superjam played a wide variety of soulful hits, including Jimi Hendrix's Have You Ever Been, Sly and the Family Stone's Babies Makin' Babies, and Time's My Summertime Thang. The band rocked for more than an hour as many fans got their first live glimpse of the magic of D'Angelo.
The Grammy Award-winner was set to make his first stateside appearance at the upcoming Essence Festival in New Orleans, but couldn't resist the chance to team up with frequent collaborator Questlove to rock the Bonnaroo festival. Superjam didn't play any of D'Angelo's famous music, but he still showed off those vocals that have fans flocking to him everywhere he goes.
Earlier in the night Questlove and his band The Roots rocked the main stage ahead of headliner Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band played some of their biggest hits like The Seed, but also delved into covers of Guns 'n' Roses Sweet Child of Mine and Kool & the Gang's Jungle Boogie. It was a fantastic set that clearly showed that this is more than just Jimmy Fallon's house band.
The band closed their set with a touching tribute to the late Gil Scott Heron with their rendition of The Bottle.
The Roots and Superjam both played to huge crowds, but neither matched the pure raucousness of Skrillrex's two-hour set. The 24-year-old DJ dropped the bass in a starship-like stage that directly appealed to every young concertgoer at Bonnaroo. Fans danced, gyrated, and threw their hands in the air when listening to the popular dubstep/electronic music set.
Skrillrex's loud, dance-inspiring music certainly doesn't appeal to everyone -- I can't imagine jam band aficionados loved his set -- but he drew in a massive crowd for his 1:30 a.m. show.
Later, Gza of Wu-Tang Clan fame played to a more intimate, yet dedicated crowd at 3 a.m. Backed by funk band Grupo Fantasma, Gza launched into his legendary 1995 album Liquid Swords and had many of those in attendance holding up their hands in the shape of a W - a nod to his Wu-Tang roots. The brilliance of his Liquid Swords album hasn't diminished at all over the years and is still as relevant today as it was when it was initially produced.
The muscled Gza put on a stunningly good performance, but unfortunately to a smaller crowd than he deserves due to a late start and rain.
Earlier in the day, actor/rapper Childish Gambino played before a huge, young crowd at the Which Stage. Childish Gambino joked about his starring role on NBC's Community, but made sure to keep the focus on his music. Clad in a muscle T-shirt, Childish Gambino -- better known as Donald Glover -- ripped a rap about Bonnaroo, a rendition of Adele's Rolling in the Deep, and played many of the songs, such as You See Me, that have made him such a popular act.
He dealt with technical difficulties for the first half-hour of his set and still has a ways to go before he hits his peak musically, but he is a fun performer and dedicated to putting out quality, crowd-pleasing music.