The reconciliation of Aaron Neville’s soft and sweet forays into MOR pop and the brothers’ rootsy New Orleans funk is complete: The covers of smooth soul hits take up the first hour; the second is spent rockin’ in rhythm flush with musical dividends.
After a buoyant opening medley of the Neville standard “Hey Pocky Way” and Johnny Jenkins’ “Walk on Gilded Splinters,” Aaron kicked in with his mellifluous-as-ever voice, tackling Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” the Main Ingredient’s “Everybody Plays the Fool” and Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now.” Better yet, the band surrounded his falsetto with an inviting warmth that made each tune glide like silk on skin.
Once the instrumentalists — percussionist Cyril, saxophonist Charles and young keyboardist Ivan sitting in for ailing Art — got their machines rolling, the incantatory distinctiveness of the Nevilles burst forth, particularly on Sonny Landreth’s “Congo Square.”
Generally performing in unison like the great second line bands of the Crescent City, the Nevilles and potent bassist Nick Daniels lifted the music to a spiritual plane that led to a cogent transformation of the Beatles’ “Come Together,” from a personal wish to a communal dictum.
Aaron Neville’s success in his duets with Linda Ronstadt, TV spots and country have forced the Nevilles to diversify and, at times this decade, the band’s direction has seemed unclear. But as the current A&M disc “Live on Planet Earth” and Monday’s show proved, the Nevilles have enhanced their funk origins and continue to write their own gospel.