Before the storm almost wiped The Big Easy off the map, it was a gritty place. We felt unsafe there, and didn’t plan a return. Until the opportunity arose to share the 61st birthday of Gino Vannelli coincided with our flight home from the Infocomm convention in Orlando.
From the air it is impossible not to recall the devastating inundation, and ponder the fragility of this city built on a delta swamp. One tidal surge too many and it will go under again.
But what a transformation – take the Joy Theater as an example. Imagine a Palais or an Enmore but gutted and rebuilt inside, with all new technical facilities, a disabled elevator, bar in the Mez and super comfortable seats. Utterly perfect except of course after the audio design was done, someone added a front of house truss with huge blinders that block high frequencies and mess the sound in the balcony.
But who is churlish? This is the MAN, the musical legend, Gino Vannelli whose style can’t be defined since it verges from jazz, to funk, to pop with some strains of opera. Probably one of the best male voices on the planet. Wrote the songs. The time signature changes in Brother to Brother would leave Toto floundering.
The sound was perfect. Joe Vannelli, producer extraordinaire, has leaned how to mix live sound and nailed it to the floor. The ball was in the pocket the whole time. He ran about the back of the venue checking the sound, which is the mark of a truly professional live sound engineer. Bass, guitar, drums keys and three brass perfectly covered the catalog, finishing with a smoking hot People Gotta Move. Wow! Wow! (That clip is from Java Jazz Festival, I was so close to going but couldn’t quite wrangle the time to fly to Jakarta for one night).
Afterwards Steve and I walked the length of Bourbon Street, where the balconies were full of boofheaded drunks yelling down to the street but the ‘show us your tits’ business was absent. It was virtually family friendly – and must be the biggest concentration of music bars on any one street in the planet.
We gave this dude a donation:
The thing is, New Orleans has emerged different and better, and I can’t help but compare to New York – visited earlier this trip, where a new order has emerged with what our historian friend Jack Stanley describes as a new humanity in our 911 memorial story.
After sleeping off our big night, at breakfast this morning in the Roosevelt Hotel I had the ultimate surprise. After being very well served, the lovely girl came up and apologised for the service delay. ‘Umm, hey I didn’t notice any delay’, I said. ‘No we are perfectionists here. It’s all on us!’.
I walked out having had a free breakfast!
Consider a visit next time you are stateside.