A ripple of excitement coursed through the capacity crowd at Tipitina’s as Art Neville made his way through the artist’s entrance on the Napoleon Avenue side of the legendary Tip’s stage on the night of November 15, 2014.
Accompanied by a handful of assorted family members, the 76 year old eldest Neville brother pecked his way across the photo pit as waves of polite applause spread through the room.
On the opposite side of the building, standing outside in the crisp air, forcing himself to take deep breaths in an effort to quiet the nervous anticipation that had suddenly overwhelmed him, drummer Aron Lambert knew the show was about to start.
But it wasn’t Lambert’s first show of the day. His day had started hours earlier, behind the drumkit for the Wild Magnolias, at the “Bye Bye Hurricane Season Celebration” in Armstrong Park.
Before the main band would take the stage for the main event – Cha Dooky Do: The Music of Art Neville – Lambert would join the Treme Brass Band for their opening set.
That’s a lot of work for someone who conceived of, organized and produced the entire show.
“I’m really glad I got that Mags show out of the way first,” Lambert said. “It was definitely the most physically demanding show. After that, I could just relax and focus on what we rehearsed.”
The lineup of musicians for the Cha Dooky Do band – David Jordan, Chris Mulé, Brian Stoltz, Marc Adams, Ian Smith, Rick Trolsen, and Tom Fitzpatrick, and special guest Billy Iuso – worked hard to strip away their signature sounds in order to represent Neville’s music in the most pure way possible.
“That’s one of the things that I’m most proud of,” Lambert said. “We worked really hard on that in rehearsals.”
Often stretching hours at a time, the extensive rehearsals paid off big time as soon as Neville took the stage.
Seated behind a Hammond B3 Organ topped by an ancient Korg Triton, Neville started off good and steadily progressed through great and into the rarefied air of New Orleans legends by the end of the set.
Lambert set everything up so Neville could sit back, take his time, and even leave the stage if he had to without the band missing a beat, but that never happened.
“In the beginning of the show, I was playing the piano parts and Art was playing the organ parts,” Adams said. “By the end, Art was playing both!”
The only time Neville left his seat was when he was compelled to his feet during the encore of “Hey Pocky Way/Fire on the Bayou.”
Anyone who had doubts about Neville’s health and remaining abilities was put to shame as his face lit up and years melted away from his beaming face.
Part of that had to do with the emergence of Amelia Neville on guitar late into the show, marking her first public performance.
“She really stole the show,” Lambert said. “I know that meant a lot to Art to see her up there on the stage.”
As Lambert put it in a video interview:
“It was palpable to everybody that what was happening was more than a show. It was going to be one of those shows that, 20 or 30 years from now, 30,000 people are going to say they were at that Cha Dooky Do show.”
Above all, Art Neville was truly the star of the show, and the energy, enthusiasm, and talent he displayed are certainly worthy of legendary status.
Poppa Funk was definitely in charge, and that’s right where he should always be.