New Orleans

Neville Brothers live at the Vienna Jazz Festival

neville brothers

I had the good fortune to see the Neville Brothers a couple of weekends ago here in Arizona. That same weekend, Jazz Fest was kicking off in New Orleans. The Neville Brothers were once staples of the Jazz Fest scene, but this was the second consecutive year that they were no-shows. Some have attributed it to Aaron Neville’s asthma. He allegedly says that the climate aggravates it.

Today, Hidden Track passed along a link on the Time-Picayune site regarding the Funky Meters return to New Orleans (Art Neville, the eldest brother, is a member of both the Meters and the Neville Brothers). The article also mentions the continued absence of the Neville Brothers in New Orleans. The criticism catches fire in the comments section. Some of the residents of New Orleans apparently harbor some serious resentment toward the Nevilles, accusing Art of bashing post-Katrina New Orleans, and going as far as calling them traitors and exploiters of their home town.

I don’t know the guys personally, but I find it hard to believe that the Nevilles have anything but love for their home town of New Orleans. Aaron just buried his wife of 50 years there in January, for crying out loud. On this their thirtieth anniversary, I’m sure the Nevilles will be planning a triumphant return to the Big Easy.

But it was interesting to see any negativity directed toward the Nevilles, especially from their home town folks. I would think their lifetime of devotion and dedication to the city would set that issue straight.

So let’s go back to last summer’s Vienna Jazz Festival, and take in a great sounding set by the Brothers.

The Neville Brothers
July 7th, 2006
Vienna Jazz Festival, Austria

1. Can’t Stop the Funk
2. Fever
3. Besame Mucho
4. A Change is Gonna Come
5. Bird on a Wire
6. Please Don’t Leave Me
7. Talkin’ Bout New Orleans
8. Foxy Lady
9. Big Chief
10. Louisiana 1927

1. Tell It Like It Is
2. Charlie
3. Yellow Moon
4. Shake Your Tamborine
5. Amazing Grace
6. Neville-ism


  • Jay

    Pete, thanks for the Neville Bros. show. I’m looking forward to hearing it. The 2006 JazzFest set by the Meters was the second best set of the Fest (after the emotional set by the Boss).

    As for the negativity aimed at the family, I think it is all about symbolism. I am a NOLA resident, and I am not surprised by the negative reaction expressed towards folks like the Nevilles who have the means, but not the desire, to return to the Crescent City. They have become symbols, representatives of the population that locals feel have “turned their backs” on their City.

    So many New Orleanians (those who have returned and those in diasporas across the country) have the desire to rebuild and move forward, but for one reason or another, they lack the means. I think these people may be taking their frustrations out on the Nevilles and others who haven’t expressed the same desire to return and rebuild.

    You don’t hear a whole lot of complaining about the fact that Fats Domino is a recluse and has refused to play at the Fest for the last two years, despite still living locally. Is this because Domino’s house has become a symbol for the destruction in the Lower Ninth, and his destroyed piano is in the LA State Museum?

  • Cove

    The Neville Brothers are terrific, and I’m sure we will see them, or most of them, play in New Orleans again despite an unexplained absence. Being here means having an incredible opportunity to participate in building a better city, and I hope they will be drawn to it.

    In the weeks after Katrina, Cyril alienated the audiences who had supported him for years. While the other performers at the fundraiser concert “From the Big Apple to the Big Easy” at Madison Square Garden sang about love, hope and rebuilding New Orleans, Cyril wore a T-shirt that read “Ethnic Cleansing in New Orleans.” He followed it up with downright mean statements that he has not recanted. See one article about it, from the Dallas Morning News:

    Again in 2006, he was quoted as saying, “”If you’re black, you’re not welcome back in New Orleans,” quoted in:

    Those who see those comments about the Nevilles on the blog that you posted should read them in light of Cyril’s words and conduct. Our governments at all levels continue to fail to get the job done in rebuillding New Orleans, and that affects everyone here equally. But with our city literally teeming with non-profits like Habitat for Humanity and church groups working to rebuild the housing stock for those who need help, there are some great success stories in our city’s rebuilding. Cyril’s comments seem uninformed to those on ground level in New Orleans.

    The Neville Brothers have made some great music over the years, and
    it’s best to focus on their art, which remains incredible. Listen to Aaron sing “Amazing Grace,” or Cyril sing “One Love” or “Fire On the Bayou,” or Art sing “Mardi Gras Mambo”, and all of the other stuff is easily forgotten.

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