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May 28, 2013

Tellin' It Like It Is: A Letter to Aaron Neville

Aaron_Neville_show_pageOh, Aaron — it's been four days and I still can't stop thinking about your concert last Friday night at the Flynn. You still sing like an angel. A freaking huge, badass, tattooed angel. You still have that sexy swagger. Your band was killer. And I loved, loved, loved Charles on that saxophone.

There were a lot of terrific moments in the two-hour show. Like, when you sang Leonard Cohen. Dude, you could have done two hours of nothing but Leonard Cohen and I would have been happy. You and Leonard were made for each other, so to speak.

So why did I feel, in the end, a tad disappointed? Here's why:

1. OK, I know you just released an album, My True Story on Blue Note, of cover songs that influenced you in your youth. Stuff like "Work With Me Annie" and "This Magic Moment' and "Money Honey." So I guess it makes sense that you would sing a bunch of these. But I have to say you kinda phoned 'em in, attitude-wise. Not enough doo in the wop. Where was the passion? And medleys?! Seriously? God, I hate medleys!

Was I wrong to expect you might also give us something a little funkier, more N'awlins, more, well, original? Now, I have nothing against the music of the 1950s and ’60s, heaven knows, but I do wish I'd known that it would dominate your show. Yes, yes, I would have known it if I'd read the Flynn's description online. But you didn't even tell us from the stage!

The few times I heard a burbling bass line and swampy beat start off a song, I thought you were finally taking it down South. But no. Still, I'm willing to let this one go. You're trying to market a new record, after all. At least you didn't trot out the Jesus songs.

2. You barely acknowledged us, your avid fans, who packed the Flynn and cheered wildly, even at the freaking medleys. Would it have killed you to turn a little charm on us? Instead, you muttered "thank you" and then turned your back on us. What the hell did you and the band have to talk about between the songs? Don't you have plenty of time to talk in the bus? I dunno, I felt like you didn't really care about us, even if we did pay $55 each to see you.

3. How do I say this? The band, though excellent musicians all, were just kinda slick (except for the cool-as-a-cucumber Charles). Especially at the show's end, when dude jumps out and yells the dreaded "Give it up for Aaron Neviiiilllle!" and smacks his hands in the air. We were already giving it up, and we know how to clap. I'm sorry, but that shit is just cheesy.

4. I can't blame you for this, Aaron, but it took about an hour for the sound get adjusted. I'm guessing y'all had a sound check, but from where I sat (row H), it was really muddy for way too long.

I still love you, man. I might even buy your new record, now that I know where you're at these days. (And that it was coproduced by Don Was and Keith Richards!) For my hit of New Orleans, I'll be going to your boy Ivan's show next Thursday during the Burlington Discover Jazz Fest. The Soul Rebels and Ivan Neville's Dumstaphunk, that is, in the Bayou Tent on the Waterfront.

Hey, here's an idea: Why don't you drop in and sing a spell?

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