NEW ORLEANS — The final day of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival offered a tale of two duos.
Philadelphia-founded pop-soul duo Hall and Oates performed on one side of the Fair Grounds Race Course. The Nashville-based, Akron, Ohio-formed Black Keys played the other.
Daryl Hall and John Oates inspired the throng that jammed the Gentilly Stage area’s field and adjacent racetrack to dance, bounce and sing along with the pair’s many hits. Loaded with hooks and melody, “Maneater,” “I Can’t Go for That,” “You Make My Dreams Come True” and many more got people smiling and moving.
A different mood loomed over the Acura Stage. The Black Keys seemed miscast. Singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney rocked with plenty of power, sure, but the effect was a bit too dark for the musical celebration Jazz Fest usually is.
Auerbach played noisy, fuzzy, retro riffs with his collection of cool guitars. Carney, sitting up front near Auerbach, produced thunderous percussion with his multi-colored drum set. The pair also sounded more exciting without their supplemental musicians. That still didn’t keep the Black Keys, out in the sunshine of Jazz Fest, from being out of their element.
A big change for Jazz Fest came this year with the absence of the Neville Brothers from their traditional Sunday closing day set at the Acura Stage. Even so, two Nevilles made music together during the closing show at the Gentilly Stage.
Aaron Neville, still in possession of his angel voice at 72, was joined by his saxophonist brother, Charles, in a performance featuring songs from the singer’s new, doo-wop-centered solo album, “My True Story.”
As for the Acura Stage closer, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, a new star from New Orleans, filled that role with his band, Orleans Avenue.
Also Sunday, Page McConnell, keyboardist from the jam band, Phish, joined the Meter Men as special guest. The Meter Men are three lords of New Orleans funk — bassist George Porter Jr., guitarist Leo Nocentelli and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, the original lineup of the Meters minus organist Art Neville.
Performing music from the Meters’ and Neville Brothers’ repertoire, the Meter Men preserved the Meters’ essential rhythm-section bottom.
Modeliste played a relentless beat as he sang the Meters’ classic, “People Say.” The song also featured a blazing, epic solo from Nocentelli and mighty performance in general from the band.
McConnell, playing organ and piano, was, no surprise, overshadowed by the Meter Men in a show that became a Meter Men family affair. Porter’s daughter, Katrina, made a cameo appearance at the microphone with her father, who looked funkedelic in his head-to-toe tie-dye outfit. And Nocentelli introduced his baby granddaughter to the crowd. “She’s gonna be a star,” the guitarist said. “Might as well get that Juilliard money ready.”
Classic New Orleans rhythm-and-blues was heard at the Jazz Fest finale in the early afternoon via a Gentilly Stage revue, including the ever-lovable Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Robert “Barefootin’ ” Parker and, the singer-pianist who recorded the city’s No. 1 Mardi Gras song, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson.
Johnson’s set featured his engaging, authoritative renditions of hits by absent and departed local stars. He sang Lloyd Price’s “Just Because,” Fats Domino’s “Hello Josephine” and Ernie K-Doe’s “Hello My Lover.”
“The late, great Ernie-K-Doe,” Johnson acknowledged. “Gone but not forgotten.” Indeed, anyone who encountered the irrepressible K-Doe can not forget him.
Johnson, 73, who recently released the first album of his career, performed his own songs, too.
“It’s a beautiful scene,” he enthused during “Mardi Gras Strut.”
“Some call it ‘Mardi Gras.’ I call it ‘Carnival time.’ ” Johnson later customized “Carnival Time” for the scene, saying, “Carnival time, right here at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2013!”
Jazz Fest put the cap on its seven days of music with another unusually cool and breezy day for spring in southeast Louisiana. As things got underway in the morning, the line for hot café au lait and beignets at the festival’s Café Du Monde booth was long while the roaming vendors who pulled ice chests and shouted “ice cold beer” had few takers. This year’s Jazz Fest must be among the coldest in the event’s history.
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