Triumphant after a "really wild" concert in Montreux, the Neville Brothers must have been looking forward to shaking the ancient walls of the Italian city of Perugia with their infectious blend of soul, funk, R&B and rock. This is the 33rd year of Umbria Jazz and every recent festival has featured an increasingly eclectic range of artists. The first family of the New Orleans music scene were billed as one of the event's most eagerly anticipated acts alongside other star turns such as Diana Krall, Eric Clapton, Chick Corea and Carlos Santana - but on the night they were greeted by every band's nightmare; a three-quarters empty 5,000-seat open air arena and an unseasonably chilly breeze that encouraged a steady trickle of people to the exits.
With an average age of 63, the four brothers, founder Art on keyboards, Charles on sax, Aaron on vocals, and tambourine and percussionist Cyril, have been playing together since 1976 and their rapport with their audience is one of the highlights of their shows. It was a pity that they were not shown at their best in Perugia. The band's resignation was summed up by Aaron, a man with the upper torso of a professional weightlifter and the voice of an angel, whose body language and tambourine had, by halfway through the set, very much lost their mojo.
They battled through it bravely and pumped it up with "Fire on the Bayou", "Fever", "Can't Stop the Funk", "Africa", "Talkin' 'Bout New Orleans". They gave their all but the night was fated and ended with only a hundred or so people standing and demanding an encore. However, the joyful surprise of the night turned out to be the opening act.
Twenty-one-year-old "Prince of New Orleans" Davell Crawford is so youthful he still has braces on his teeth. A powerful pianist and vocally reminiscent of Nina Simone, he blew the audience away with a roaring version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water", giving it an entirely new meaning, and then stole the Nevilles' thunder with a passionate finale of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927".
Crawford's personalisation of classic songs was an object lesson to the Jamie Cullums of this world. Catch him before he becomes a very big star.Reuse content