The Neville Brothers at The B.B. King Blues Club

The Neville Brothers


B.B. King Blues Club, October 3, 2002:


       I bring my wife Kathy down to The B.B. King Blues Club for only the second time. We take the trains and walk the last ten blocks. We are at the club very early at about 4:45 P.M. We wait upstairs due to the sold out shows and the Intel party downstairs at Lucille’s Bar & Grill. We meet a very lovely lady, Elizabeth, who is first on line. She is a very avid Neville Brothers fan, and is friends with the band. Elizabeth works here in Manhattan, at The United Nations. She is waiting for her friend, Faith. Faith is getting off work early, and is on her way, presently. Our conversation is very warm and we strike up a nice friendship. B.B. King staffer, David, is very hospitable and recognizes me, as did Elizabeth. We have a real nice hour plus, waiting on line.

       We go downstairs as the doors open at 6:15 P.M. I am on the guest list, again, thanks to Ariel Publicity. The club seating set up is different tonight, and the center front table area is opened up for dancing. At the advice of Elizabeth, I choose a table near the bar, just behind the partition, that is raised up above the front floor section below. I should be able to see from there when the dancing starts. Faith had arrived shortly before 6:00 P.M. She and Elizabeth sit down on the main floor, on stage left. We continue chatting throughout the evening.

       We are joined at our table by a sweet couple from here in Manhattan, Linda and Walter. Walter is a former personal assistant to Dr. John. Linda moved here from Chicago in July. Linda is a Psychologist/Counselor with a very busy schedule currently. Kundun Baidwan serves us tonight, our gracious hostess. The service and the food is a home run again. Thanks to all concerned, here at the club.

       The Neville Brothers come on stage at 8:01 P.M. The opening number is, “Fire On The Bayou.” This is an excellent opening number in the R&B funk groove. The rhythm section is strong and fat. Ivan Neville, Aaron’s son, is on lead vocals and Hammond B-3 organ. His organ solo is strong and dramatic. Musical stops are provided to feature breaks for guitar and bass. Charles Neville takes a great, moody and sensuous solo on his tenor saxophone.


The Neville Brothers Take The Stage / B.B. King Blues Club


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The second song is, “People Say.” There is a strong rhythm emphasis. The guitarist, playing a green Stratocaster, takes a smokin’ guitar solo. Ivan Neville takes a tremendous organ solo. He starts slowly, and then is running scale arpeggios and playing coordinated band ensemble accents. There is a dynamically contrasting quiet section, and vocal refrain, “New York City… Have we got the right to live… People Say.”

       The next song is called, “War Horse.” This is a lively funk tune. There are sweet three part harmonies. There are musical stops to showcase the drummer. He utilizes lots of tom-toms on this tune. The organ is featured and the guitarist takes another great solo. The fourth musical entry is called, “Baby, What You Want Me to Do.” The intro features the organ and the cowbell is the percussive focal point. The song features 3 tremendous percussionists, lead by Cyril Neville, and the drummer (trap player). Charles takes a hot solo on tenor sax. Jason takes a tremendous solo on the organ. His playing is fat and rich. The guitarist uses a thick distortion effect and wails away on his solo. He demonstrates great arpeggio runs and note stretches. There is a cut-time section with very syncopated and solid accents. The song finishes with a strong cut-time ending.


Guitarist Wailing the Stratocaster


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next two songs feature Aaron Neville on lead vocals. Song five is, “I Don’t Know Much.” This was one of his huge duet hits with Linda Ronstat. His vocal effort is very strong and the accompanying harmonies are rich, deep and sweet. There is a well-placed and strong guitar solo. The next Aaron Neville feature song is, “Arianne.” This song features Aaron’s amazing vibrato singing style. Aaron’s strong vibrato style is virtually without equal in current popular music. I can’t think of any male vocalist who can even compare to this amazing control, strength and sound.


Aaron Neville Featured on Vocals


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       Song seven is a Bill Withers composition “Ain’t No Sunshire.” It is done Reggae style with heavy percussion emphasis and bold drum playing. Charles takes an outstanding solo on tenor sax. Ivan takes a spiritually lifting solo on the organ and the guitarist’s solo is hot and then hotter! The synthesizer/keyboard player takes an outstanding solo on the Roland XP 80. The bassist, Charlie Horn, takes a solo featuring some double-time bass note playing, which showcases his tremendous musical abilities. Aaron again shines on lead vocals with the family accompanying him on excellent harmonies. On this number the dancing commences. Kathy is about to leave me to get up and dance, when I join her on the dance floor. I am doing this review standing up dancing and scribbling down notes between singing, yelling and cheering !!!

       The next song is an instrumental. There is a great bass intro and the song has a Latin feel tempo with a minor chord structure. Charles takes the head with a sensuous, melodic lead on his tenor. He is milking this one, playing very rich and fat through the changes. He plays extended melody development throughout. The pianos emphasize the Latin melody and the percussionists, led by Cyril, play in unison as a team. The bassist does a handclap with the 3 percussionists, with the tenor wailing away on that strong melody throughout.


Cyril Neville on Percussion & Vocals


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The ninth tune features a long vocal intro by Ivan and a strong rich melody on the organ. This tune is a slow, funky R&B style melody and tempo. This music is slow, fat, funky, sly, hot and heavy. Charles’ tenor solo is sweet and further develops the melody.


Charles Neville on Tenor


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next song, “Jesus Children,” is a gospel tune. The vocals are rich and spiritual. There is a great tenor solo and a deeply soulful organ solo. That fat B-3 sound is always one of my favorite additions to any band. Ivan adds funky accents to his outstanding playing.


Ivan Neville


Photo:©A.J. Alfaro

       The next song is, “Summertime.” Aaron is featured on a tremendous vocal effort. Charles’ tenor sax is featured and the band changes to a medium swing tempo for the tenor sax solo. Next is another Bill Withers number, “Use Me.” This is performed up-tempo and funky. The drummer, Willie Green, utilizes the reverse stick technique on the snare for a more staccato effect and he cooks double-time on his hi-hat. Yeah Baby!!


Willie Green on Drums & Outstanding Bassist


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next number is upbeat and (even more) super danceable. The tenor takes the melody lead and the percussionists and drums play exceptionally strong. The tenor takes a wailin’ solo and the organ solo is fat and toasty!! The dancing is even more emotional and exciting. There is a cut-time tempo change and a funky hot synthesizer solo.


Tremendous Synthesizer Solo


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       Song fourteen is slow and spiritual. This is a slow Reggae tempo and is called, “Song Of Freedom.” The vocals are very heart-felt. There is a nice pick-up tempo change for dynamic effect, and then back to the hypnotic staggered Reggae tempo and spiritual vocals. The next tune is funky. The percussionist yells, “Funk, the whole funk.” This tune is either, “Real Funk,” or, “For The Funk Of It.” The repeating vocal refrain, “You can’t go wrong, funky all night long.” The band is really kickin’. The next song has a tremendous bass intro with the vocal refrain, “Tipitina,” being repeated. It sounds like a New Orleans festival party. The next song has a drum solo introduction. The vocal refrain, “Foxy Lady,” is repeated. The guitarist plays a super hot lead solo which is really tremendous and out of control. “Foxy Lady,” the place is out of control !!    


Earl Smith Jr. Dances With a Festival Parasol


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

        Song eighteen, "Shake Your Tamborine," features a drum solo by Willie Green. This illustrates and showcases the soul of the Mardi Gras. This music is super up-tempo and hot, hot, hot. “When you go to New Orleans,” is the vocal refrain. There is a nice ascending bass and melody line. This is funky and tight. There is a smokin’ B-3 solo and the bass is hot.

       After leaving the stage for a few moments, The Neville Brothers return. The encore tune features Aaron on vocals and Charles on alto sax. The alto solo is smokin’ and the horn attack level is slow, sexy and deliberate with arpeggio flashes and some near-east melodic moments, for musical contrast. There is cut-time and rhythmic space to feature additional dynamic control. The song continues with, “Tell me,” as the vocal refrain. The guitarist and Charles wailin’ on his alto, do a duet solo that is quite amazing!!!!


Guitar and Alto Sax / Solo Duet


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       I have been dancing since song seven without stopping. Kathy, Elizabeth and I have been all together in the front of the dance floor just going wild with excitement !! The next song is a Mardi Gras festival sound with an up-beat, lively and party flavor. The piano gives it a lively lift of spirit and bounce. The vocal refrain, “Jam till the morning comes,” is repeated. The B-3 organ solo utilizes sustain and organ effects leading to arpeggio runs of melodic note flourishes. The band remains super, super hot.

       Song twenty-one is an American spiritual gospel anthem sung by Aaron called, “Amazing Grace.” He again showcases his incredible vibrato vocal technique. He possesses strong falsetto and vibrato control that is unsurpassed. The last song, “One Love,” is incredible. The vocal delivery is truly heart-felt. The Reggae tempo is very effective and strong. The Neville Brothers played over two hours of intense, unrelenting music. We have been dancing through most of it, very happily. It was a great idea to open up the dance floor.

       The Neville Brothers end the show bowing and thanking the audience. They shake our hands where possible. Charles gives me a set list. He does say that it was not followed exactly. We all cheer and thank them for an amazing show.


Charles Acknowledges Audience


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       Kathy, Elizabeth and I all hug and scream in joy. What a tremendous show, The Neville Brothers put on tonight!! Kathy and I thank Elizabeth for being so nice and friendly to us. Elizabeth takes my card to find and read this review. We really hope and can count on seeing this great lady again, here at The B.B. King Blues Club!!

       OH YEAH!!!!!!!!!!


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