Sunday, April 29, 2007

Perfect weekend for Jazzfest

New Orleans Jazzfest kicked off on Friday in perfect weather - blues skies, warm temperatures and hot hot music. As ever it was uncomfortably crowded, but there was fantastic music wherever you looked and great food.
Day one. Headliner for the day was Van Morrisson, but the Acura Stage where he was playing was thick with an unmovable mass of people, so I spent most of my time in the Blues Tent. Big Al Carson more than justifies his name. He isn't just big, he's huge, but he's got a great blues voice, as regulars in the bar in Bourbon Street where he plays most nights can testify. As he says in one of his songs, he's 'built for comfort, not for speed'. True. Following him was Lucky Peterson, who set the Blues Tent alive with his electrifying guitar playing, great keyboard work and all round showmanship. Dressed in a smart white suit and red tie he really looked the part of the archetypal bluesman, and the crowd lapped him up, my included. Finally there was Percy Sledge, one of the last of the great southern soul singers, who went through a selection of his many songs over a 40 year career, including naturally When a man loves a woman, Warm and tender love, Take time to know her, Out of left field and a duet with his wife on Bring it on home to me. Along the way I caught a bit of George Porter and Running Partners, with their excellent N'Awlins funk, and the good Dr John, who was as reliable and consistent as ever.
Day two. A cloudless sky and again too many people - even more than yesterday - and more acts than you could possibly see. The highlight for me looked like being Bobby Charles, legendary songwriter and originator of See you later Alligator, who plays very rarely. Sadly he didn't show up, but his 'friends' did, and they included Marcia Ball, Dr John, Shannon McNally with Sonny Landreth on lead guitar, who ran through a selection of Bobby's songs including Tennessee Blues (Shannon McNally), Jealous kind (Marcia Ball) and Walkin' to New Orleans (Dr John). His signature Alligator hit was performed by a harassed looking band leader Parker James. Moving on to the Blues Tent I caught Richie Havens' set. I've never been a particular fan of Havens slightly weird folky bluesy stuff, but he looked the part, with his long beard and blue tunic, and you had to admire his guitar work. Finishing off the day I toured three of the stages to catch part of their acts, starting with Rod Stewart, who looked good and sounded pretty hot as well I have to admit, Ludacris, who lived up to his name with his puerile rap crap, and Norah Jones, who looked like a little girl lost on a big stage.
Altohether the first two days of Jazzfest lived up to expectations and more. If only it was less crowded, but at least its bringing some prosperity to a New Orleans which is still suffering badly post Katrina.


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