The Neville Brothers @ The Nokia Theater
The musical reawakening of New Orleans over the past five years has been something very exciting to watch. After that bitch named Katrina, the appreciation for New Orleans and it’s musical community has become one of the most visible movements in musical history. When I think of the face of that movement I think of The Neville Family. The name epitomizes New Orleans, especially the music community. Tonight, I would watch legends, survivors, mentors and men bring the essence of New Orleans to a New York City stage. Aaron agrees…
“This is a strange moment in my career,” muses Aaron. “Since Katrina I’ve devoted months and months to benefit concerts—and that’s been a blessing. My profile and the profiles of my brothers have been raised by the storm. People all over the world see us as the face of New Orleans. They want to hear us play. They want to feel that we’ve survived the storm. They want to be assured that life goes on.” ~ Aaron Neville ~
I arrived to the Nokia Theater a little after 8:30 knowing I would be missing Rubblebucket for the 8th time. A friend had snagged me a $10 ticket and I was in the door and down the escalator. Rubblebucket, opener for the night, was performing their second to last song as I arrived. I didn’t pay attention on purpose because 1) the sax/lead singer girl wasn’t playing her horn, she was just singing and 2) I refuse to truly focus on Rubblebucket until I can listen to them completely in all their raging glory. During the last song, the horn section and a few others from the stage paraded around the audience. Still didn’t focus, mingled, got my spot with the Funk Live Krewe…on with the show…
The Neville Brothers. New Orleans Royalty. What else is there to say? Whenever there is a Neville performing, in whatever project, you can bet that with that name comes talent and a great show 🙂 I will tell you dead ass upfront that I can’t really stand Aaron Neville‘s falsetto. The radio played The Nevilles SO MUCH in the 80’s/90’s and there was something about his voice. But then again, at times I find it hauntingly beautiful and distinct. It’s a love/hate relationship. We struggled, Aaron and I, throughout the night but the show over all was ON FIRE!! AWESOME! And it made me love and appreciate Aaron a little more.
The heart and soul of New Orleans joined the stage…..
Art Neville (Keys/Piano/Organ/ Brother #1)
Charles Neville (Saxophone/Brother #2)
Aaron Neville – Vocals/ Brother #3
Cyril Neville – Percussion/Vocals/ Brother #4
“Mean” Willie Green – Drums
Chris Severin – Bass
Michael Goods – Keys
Makuni Fukuda- Guitar
Right off the bat they flew into some funky New Orleans love with Shake Your Tambourine! Cyril was on percussion. Aaron’s falsetto rang out into the audience. It was kind of weak for the start. This is a powerful song and if you are going to open with it, hit it HARD! They still had a little warming up to do! Charles hitting the hand bell and they grew in front of us. The drums hit harder, the singing got crisper, the tambourine rang clearer. “The music gonna move ya,” sang the Brothers Neville. Yes sir, the music started to move us…without a doubt.
A little gospel funk kicked it up a notch with Africa. This song gave the room just enough funk for us to shake our hips but slow enough to be full of soul. Art gave it to us on the keys with a kickin’ solo. You could see the brothers gaining energy. The crowd following suit. Charles on cowbell, always my favorite haha. I noticed saxophones at this point and wondered if anyone from Rubblebucket might be joining the stage later.
Brother Jake had Makuni pickin’ his strings givin’ off a rock vibe. Aaron on tambourine, drums came in and then the funky horns and keys rounded it off. This song was hot!! A great intro before Cyril sang the crap out of the song. The horns, the vocals, it all just sounded so perfect together. Still cringe a little when I hear the high Aaron but I lose track of him watching Makuni rage a fat solo. I looked around at this point and see people all over the venue dancing all over the place. Couples swinging, individuals groovin. The venue was on fire and it was only the third song. It had taken them less than a song to warm up and less then three to bring the house to a ragin’ dance party of funk goodness. Charles Neville WAILED on his saxophone towards the end and it was AWESOME as he teased Here Comes The Hotstepper.
Time for the evening’s first recognizable cover as Peggy Lee‘s Fever lit up the stage. This is such a sexy, sexy song to me. I find that it should be exclusively left for women like Grace Potter to sing, dancing around men, snapping their fingers. But, The Neville’s sang it. Aaron sang and Charles killed it on the sax. I did love Charles during this song. It’s a sexy, sensual song and the horn was perfect in place of the vocals.
As someone screams One…TWO…ONE..TWO…THREE…the horns wail, the drums pound and the tambourine shakes as Aaron screams “It might be superstition/but some kind of somethin’ goin’ on down there.” A fun, fun, horn laden song about voodoo and witnessing its practices, originally written by Sonny Landreth.
There is a distinct sound with The Neville Brothers, am I right? Is it their inherent New Orleans blood? Is it the specific falsetto of the Aaron? Is it the fact that they are family? Something about them being related allows for the sounds to ring clearer, sharper, crisper. It’s like the Beach Boy, you always know its them. Voodoo, a slower song, opened with horns and reminded me of driving down the road with my mother listening to The Neville Brothers on the radio. Aaron rang out his falsetto, “You must have put voodoo on me/Oh , you must have cast a spell.” Art Neville raged on his keys, giving us a funky, sparkling solo scaling up and down his board. “You must have cast a spell /the way you got me loving you girl.” Charles picks up the smaller sax and goes to TOWN as shit hits the fan when Cyril started banging his drums, his hands flying.
Oh man, Art struck the keys, plinking along in the signature style of Professor Long Hair for Big Chief. Then the horns calls the rest of the instruments in, bongos hit hard by Cyril. Oh man, the screaming of Cyril. He went ape crazy during this song. I would venture to guess that this was his favorite song? He put the most effort and RAGE into this song, into his singing, into his everything. Just full of soul and fire. CYRIL IS THE MAN! And, dare I say it, my favorite brother. He was, by far, the most vibrant, dynamic and radiant on stage that night. I was able to see him with Galactic earlier this year and was excited to be seeing him again tonight. He did not disappoint.
The lights changed, the horns were low, Art layered down some jazzy keys. This song was mainly for Charles to show us his talented horn over an awesome bass rage. it was time for CHARLIE to shine. There was a gorgeous ending by Charles on the sax and then a huge applause
We can never go without a ballad or six now can we? Here came Aaron Neville’s falsetto in all it’s glory and it’s definitely an acquired taste. Here he was singing Sam Cooke’s A Change Gonna Come. NO ONE can sing that song even close to the way Sam sang it. I got hooked on the original years ago and had it on repeat for quite some time in college. But here is where I keep my mouth closed and just let you see the video.
Another New Orleans staple, Brother John threw us so hard back into NOLA based funk. Everybody sang, “Hey now!!” This weekend was apparently Fleet Week. Two marine girls were running through the crowd and taking pictures. They were having more fun then any of us drinking, making out with dudes..ahhhh, I miss spring breaks but glad I am not in the military.
Yellow Moon, a more then famous Neville’s song was next. Aaron sang his hip-shaking tambourine vibed song. Charles picked up another saxophone solo and floored us. This was such a sexy hip shaking song. I love how they sped it up and slowed it down throughout the night. Slowin’ it down, shakin’ it slow. Aaron with his falsetto echoing off the walls, the bongos banged by Cyril, percussion by Charles all with the bass line popping through.
Here we come to my personal favorite songs of the night. A staple that never gets old, the crowd cheered as Henry Butler was brought to the stage for Pocky Way. This familiar tune, this staple of New Orleans, never gets old. But if for any reason, this was leaving a stale taste in anyone’s mouth, when Henry Butler joined the stage it raised everything to a whole new level, if only for one song.
It is at this point that the set list and my notes do not match up. It was clear that they moved away from the page and did their own thing. Charles was given some time to just rage some funky tunes through his horn. They certainly plowed into Come To New Orleans. “You got to get to New Orleans/You gotta show me Mardi Gras.” And then into a lovely a-cappella Gospel song where there was no music, just singing with thier pretty voices. “When this life’s over/I’ll fly away…” This was definitely a mash up, the tambourine quietly shaken and cyrill screamed. “WHO DAT”
They just raged the Who Dat Chant + Saints Come Marching In 🙂 As always it gets EVERYONE ALL ROWLED UP!!!! Just a full faced rage at this point. People jumping all over. Then into Amazing Grace with Art on keys and Aaron on vocals soloing but together. And finally into Bob Marley’s One Love!! That was the icing on the cake. The crowd was swaying, arms were being placed over our neighbors shoulders, hugs were being passed out, the love was being felt. “Let’s get together and feel alright” said The Neville Brothers. I think they got their point across this night on the stage at The Nokia Theater. I held on tight to that energy as it would carry me into the 7 Walkers show the following night…
Proposed Set List (off the stage):
Change Gonna Come
Fiyo / Come To New Orleans