AARON Neville has a magical voice – a sweet, tremulous yet completely commanding tenor which he can switch seamlessly to an almost unearthly falsetto.
In the course of this show, he turned those heavenly tonsils to a slick sequence of soul and jazz standards, threw in a touch of doo-wop, a country number, a reggae medley and a somewhat bizarre pin-drop version of Ave Maria. Yet he all but ignored his current stripped-back gospel album I Know I’ve Been Changed in favour of an overcooked, sometimes cheesy sound that ill served his talents.
His band – including brother Charles, quite the dude on saxophone – played with a practised comfort. It was too comfortable, in fact, often straying into hotel lounge territory. Neville is far cooler than that but as the standards kept coming – Stand By Me, Fever, Ain’t No Sunshine – they sounded more and more like the work of a competent covers band fronted by an extraordinary voice.
That voice, coupled with its tender, halting delivery, was best suited to the Sam Cooke covers. Bursts of Cupid and Chain Gang were dispatched on the road to the mighty A Change Is Gonna Come. Neville was equal to the challenge, even if the band insisted on over-jamming the arrangement.
Following a tame take on When The Saints Go Marching In, Neville put the final nail in the coffin by lending his sublime voice to the ridiculous Mickey Mouse March.
The Louisiana flavour was supplied instead by the opening set from young zydeco bandleader Cedric Watson who introduced the crowd to the delights of a southern pig party, rolled out some rocking Creole blues and a quaint ditty about beans but weighed down the back porch set-up with drums and electric bass.