Mavis Staples, Mumford & Sons, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Yola performed for member-supported radio station WFUV at the 15th annual Holiday Cheer for FUV concert at the Beacon Theatre on December 10, 2019. 

WFUV program director Rita Houston introduced the Grammy-nominated folk and soul artist Yola, who earlier in the year visited the radio station and performed an FUV Live session. Hailing from Bristol, England, the powerful vocalist and acoustic guitarist performed a 30-minute set backed by a four-piece band. The set consisted of original songs and a cover of Elton John’s “Yellow Brick Road.” She received several standing ovations.

Mumford & Sons’ inclusion in the show was announced only a week before the concert, long after it had sold out. The band performed as an acoustic quartet plus a string trio. Vocalist/guitarist Marcus Mumford, banjo player Winston Marshall, pianist Ben Lovett, and upright bassist Ted Dwane returned to the early roots of the band with a far more Americana-flavored set than the electric set the band performed a week ago at Barclays Center. Mumford & Sons surprised the audience with “October Skies,” the first time the band ever performed the song in concert.

Nathaniel Rateliff returned to Holiday Cheer for FUV after joining John Prine at the 2018 concert. Rateliff normally performs in the blues-rocking Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, but here he performed a solo acoustic set. His first song showcased his finger-picking prowess, featuring a speedy, extended flamenco-style instrumental break. Wiping tears from his eyes several times, he dedicated his final song to the late Richard Swift, who was to produce Rateliff’s forthcoming solo album.

At 80 years of age, Mavis Staples has the fire and spirit of a performer one-fourth her age. Backed by guitarist Rick Holmstrom, bassist Jeff Turmes, drummer Steve Mugalian, and backing vocalists Donny Gerrard and Saundra Williams, Staples belted out song after song,withHolmstrom’s sizzling guitar work helping to electrify her performance. The set included some of the better-known songs she sang in the Staples Singers, along with covers of songs by Talking Heads and Buffalo Springfield. During “Touch a Hand,” she walked to the apron of the stage and reached down to touch the hands of members of the audience, then encouraged her fans to reach out to a stranger in the audience and touch a hand. She amused the audience by addressing social problems and threatening to slap the President and then run for presidential office herself.

The printed run of show indicated that the show would close with all the cast singing The Band’s “The Weight,” but starting times for each act ran late and ultimately at the 11 p.m. curfew, Staples waved goodbye, the band stopped playing, and the house lights were turned on.

The Holiday Cheer for FUV concerts started in 2005 at the Concert Hall at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. The concerts benefit member-supported radio station WFUV.

Set lists:

Yola

“Faraway Look”

“Ride Out in the Country”

“Walk Through Fire”

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (Elton John cover)

“I Don’t Wanna Lie”

“It Ain’t Easier”

Mumford & Sons

“Ditmas”

“Lover of the Light”

“October Skies”

“Guiding Light”

“The Cave”

Nathaniel Rateliff

“Tonight #2”

“All or Nothing”

“Expecting to Lose”

“And It’s Still Alright”

“Time Stands”

“Rush On”

Mavis Staples

“If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” (The Staple Singers song)

“Take Us Back”

“Slippery People” (Talking Heads cover)

“Who Told You That”

“For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield cover)

“You Are Not Alone”

“Change”

“Touch a Hand” (The Staple Singers song)

“No Time for Crying”

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