Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

December 10, 2012

Neville Quintet plays to holiday gathering at Palace

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Just a couple of days before cool weather blew into town, Corsicana received a gentle breeze of New Orleans heat Friday in the form of the Aaron Neville Quintet, which played at the Palace Theater.

I’ll be honest, I was shocked when lead singer Aaron Neville said he was 72, because he still looks the way he did 30 years ago when I first heard the Neville Brothers’ classic album “Nevillization.” Even more surprising, he sounded 40-ish, too.

This was classic Neville, with that pretty, almost lady-like falsetto intermixed in with a strong soulful baritone, and both voices just as smooth as cafe’ au lait in N’awlins on a cool fall day.

This was the Christmas celebration tour, though, and they performed some marvelous classics, including Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” otherwise known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” and I made a little moan, wishing I could carry them home for the holiday.

The quintet consisted of Aaron and his sax-playing brother, Charles, along with world-class musicians David Johnson, Michael Goods, Eric Struthers, and Earl Smith Jr., on bass, piano, guitar and drums, respectively.

A couple of times Aaron left the stage, presumably to get a sip of water and cool down the pipes, although he’s not one of those singers who feels compelled to belt out every note. During those breaks, the band performed without vocals and they rocked the joint.

My favorites were when he sang “This Magic Moment,” “Don’t Know Much,” and “The Grand Tour,” which is a George Jones staple that Neville made his own back in the early ‘90s. He did a few of his own pieces, and even read a sad piece of poetry, but quickly bounced back into the music, which was appreciated at least where I was sitting.

But the encore of “Amazing Grace,” morphing into “Goodnight, Sweetheart,” was about as deliciously New Orleans-Nevilley as it gets, and I could only shake my head at the more than a dozen empty seats around me where season-ticket holders had blown off one of the  most gifted musicians of the last half of the 20th century in favor of what I can only imagine were multiple life-threatening cases of flu, because surely nothing else could have kept smart people away from that show?

Fortunately, he’s still going strong, even announcing a new album coming out in January. As he told the audience Friday regarding his age: “It ain’t nothin’ but a number.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com