Two very different bands that have recently spent time off the road closed New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival’s Saturday night festivities. Simon & Garfunkel kicked off its latest reunion tour with a packed performance on the festival’s main Acura Stage. The duo performed a number of its timeless hits, including “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Art Garfunkel’s voice sounded strained from the start—a problem he acknowledged from the stage (though he
mentioned that he wasn’t going to miss the Jazz Fest because of a little frog in his throat). His voice problems could have been a reason the singer left the stage for a few songs halfway through the show, leaving Paul Simon to front the band on both solo originals like “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes” and Simon & Garfunkel classics like “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Garfunkel later returned to help close out the show and take a triumphant bow with his childhood friend. Garfunkel cancelled a few solo appearances prior to JazzFest due to throat problems.
Meanwhile, My Morning Jacket headlined the festival’s second largest performance space, the Gentilly Stage. The Kentucky-bred rock band recently reunited after a year apart for a short tour built around JazzFest. The group took the stage dressed in cowboy costumes—frontman Jim James played the party of a sheriff and placed a toy Nintendo gun in his holster—and launched into a bit of The Who’s “Eminence Front” that segued into “One Big Holiday.” The group focused primarily on its better known songs like “Golden” and “Touch Me I’m Gonna Scream” and thanked the crowd for choosing to see My Morning Jacket given the day’s variety in music. Like the other shows on the band’s current tour, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band sat in during the last portion of My Morning Jacket’s set for “Highly Suspicious” and Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.” Local hero Al Johnson also joined the musicians onstage for his own composition, “Carnival Time.” Later in the night, My Morning Jacket played a second show at Preservation Hall (please click here for a recap of that performance).
A variety of New Orleans sounds could be heard throughout the Fairgrounds, ranging from gospel to blues to jazz and funk. Of all the area groups, The funky Meters drew the largest audience for classics like “Fire on the Bayou.” New guitarist Ian Neville fit in comfortably alongside band co-founders George Porter Jr. and Art Neville, both of whom appeared invigorated throughout their set on the Acura Stage. Likewose, the young brass band supergroup the Midnight Disturbers brought together Big Sam, frequent New Orleans visitor Skerik, Rebirth Brass Band’s Corey Henry and members of Galactic, among others. Papa Grows Funk encouraged visiting fans to check out many of the day’s performers at their weekly club shows throughout New Orleans.
Saturday’s late night options ranged from Galactic on a river boat to performances by Patti Smith and Lotus at Tipitina’s Uptown (the members of R.E.M. were spotted at Smith’s performance). One of the evening’s most unique show was a revue hosted by members of the Royal Potato Family record label at Tipitina’s French Quarter. Though billed as separate performances by related bands The Slip (Brad Barr, Marc Friedman, Andrew Barr), Marco Benevento Trio (Benevento, Reed Mathis and Andrew Barr) and Surprise Me Mr. Davis (Nathan Moore, The Slip and Benevento), the three groups rotated on and off the stage throughout the night. Each unit offered three songs per mini-set with drummer Andrew Barr remaining the evening’s one constant (Moore remarked from the stage, “We saw they were advertising the show as The Slip, Surprise Me Mr. Davis and Marco Benevento Trio and we all looked at each other backstage and thought ‘that’s us!’”. One by one the musicians out on their trademark Surprise Me Mr. Davis suits until the entire group was dressed in formal wear. It was close to 6 AM by the time the show ended with most of the musicians onstage performing as Surprise Me Mr. Davis.