Neil Young and Promise of the Real’s two-hour guitar freak-out on Sunday (May 1) freaked for an additional seven or eight minutes when they returned to the stage for an encore. That left Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue with less than an hour for their festival-closing set on New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’s Acura Stage, and they responded with an obvious sense of urgency.
The opening “Do To Me” got the band off to a hot start, with Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews working as hard as front man and lead singer as he did on his energy-first solo. From there, the set resembled the rock-like show they played in front of the Foo Fighters at Voodoo in 2014 more than either of the funk sets they played at Jazz Fest in the last few years. The Jazz Fest sets were relaxed, almost valedictory as they embraced the place where he’d grown up musically.
The difference is small but significant as the emphasis shifted to the whole, of which music is only a part. The band no longer has to prove its musicality or that it can be funky. On Sunday night, the solos emphasized energy and heat. It was also telling that Shorty’s showstopping circular breathing solo was replaced by the sort of journey into the audience that Springsteen, Arcade Fire and Pearl Jam have all taken in the past.
One of Andrews’ gifts has been to make whatever he does look effortless, and Sunday, it looked like he was impervious to the elements as well. While Ivan Neville played keyboards in a high-collared rain slicker, Shorty wore a purple dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, even as temperatures dipped into the 60s.
When Shorty played the Essence Music Festival’s main stage last year, it became clear that he while was a good singer in the funk world, he wasn’t enough of a singer for Essence’s main stage. Then, like today, Shorty was an inventive enough entertainer to win the crowd over, but tonight he showed his growth in that department. When the band performed Ernie K-Doe’s “Here Come the Girls,” Shorty didn’t pick up a horn until the song’s final bars.
Years of playing on the streets and bars have made Andrews good at reading an audience, and despite dropping temperatures, a stiffening breeze and a rave-up version of “Hurricane Season” that seemed like a natural ending, he came back for an encore of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It was cheese made cheesier by folding in some “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” that was more Blues Brothers than Solomon Burke. But it was clear that they knew it, and after a night and, really, a few years of showing what they can do, the moment felt more like lighthearted fun than pandering.