Last Night: Aaron Neville at House of Blues
New Orleans native Aaron Neville took the House of Blues stage last night looking like every publicity still we've seen of him over the last few decades: Bulging muscles, fitted black shirt, fedora, jewelry, religious tattoos.
Photos by Barry Sigman
Last year, Neville (who celebrates his 71st birthday next month) released Gospel album I Know I've Been Changed, thus marking a significant milestone in his career -- his 50th year in recorded music. A musician cannot attain such an enduring and successful career unless he or she has perfected one particular art: The art of absolute entertaining, which Neville has clearly mastered.
Returning to the House of Blues for his annual holiday performance, Neville was joined by his "Quintet" band of guitarist, bassist, drummer, keys player, and saxaphonist. They opened with a four-song medley packed with crowd-pleasing punch, including "Stand By Me," "Cupid," "There Goes My Baby," and "Chain Gang."
Though last night's show was promoted as a holiday concert, only about a quarter of Neville's setlist was Christmas-themed. He sang a handful of esteemed songs of the '50s, '60s and '70s, including Bob Marley & the Wailers' "Stir It Up," Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," and The Drifters' "This Magic Moment," which received a collective "Aww!" from the crowd.
While Neville stuck to Christmas tunes and classic covers, he also sang his two most lauded covers as a solo artist, "Everybody Plays the Fool" and 1989 soft-rock staple "Don't Know Much" (originally recorded as a duet with Linda Ronstadt).
Christmas songs like "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and a beautiful rendition of "Ave Maria" freshened up Neville's otherwise soulful set. At one point of the show, he read from his personal poetry book -- a book which he says holds poems he wrote while facing different hardships in life, including "the reality of the streets." He read us a rhyming poem he'd written about the struggles of the world's homeless -- a stark yet touching depiction, which received some audible heartfelt amens from the crowd.
The reading was a touching moment, but ill-timed; it was directly followed with a cheerful rendition of "White Christmas."