- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Despite the absences of Charles and Art Neville, a stripped-down version of the Neville Brothers electrified the Birchmere Monday night. The group’s high-energy performance kept the crowd dancing and “second lining” like a slithering conga troupe through the club, Mardi Gras-style.

Many of the capacity crowd (500) lined up two hours before the show to get a good seat, and the Neville Brothers who showed did not disappoint. With piano man Art Neville waylaid because of a back injury and saxophonist Charles Neville not available, Aaron and Cyril Neville proved that the Brothers’ missing pieces did not subtract from the band’s quality live fusion.

If anything, the group only improved on the family recipe by folding second-generation Neville Brothers effectively into the roux.

Keyboard player and singer Ivan Neville and guitarist Ian Neville are the sons of Aaron and Art, respectively. Together, they added a fresh new groove animating the live performance.

“We’re finding the funk,” said singer and percussionist Cyril Neville in an interview backstage. “It’s rejuvenated Nevilism — the old funk in some new shoes.”

“Nevilized” and revitalized, the Brothers took the stage blazing through mainstays “Fiyo on the Bayou” and “People Say.” Cyril and Ivan Neville’s interplay on piano and percussion provoked a roomful of dervishlike dancers to get up and shake.

Next came “War Horse,” a Mardi Gras Indian-infused stomp. “War Horse” is a new song the entire family (including Art and Charles) recorded this summer for their upcoming CD. It sounds like the heavily rhythmic “back shed” jams the family used to conjure in their neighborhood in uptown New Orleans.

Continuing the soulful flow, Aaron Neville crooned a string of his stunning hits, including “Feels Like Rain,” “Drift Away,” “She’s a Lady,” “Ain’t No Sunshine (When She’s Gone)” and the classic “Tell It Like It Is.”

The highlight of the night in an evening full of spectacular performances was Cyril Neville’s “Just for the Funk of It,” a song from his exceptional new solo album, “Remembering Benny’s Bar” (Kongo Square Records). As the band sang in unison, “Everybody shake your body down,” the crowd delivered the evening’s largest round of applause. That is, until the encore, when Aaron Neville’s sublime version of “Amazing Grace” and the entire band’s Bob Marley cover “One Love,” sent the crowd home happy.

“Thanks for rocking our socks,” cried a fan as the Neville Brothers left the building.

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