Neville Brothers bring family funk to Vilar

Scott N. Miller

BEAVER CREEK – For the first family of New Orleans funk, there’s home, and then there’s the road.That road passes through Beaver Creek Saturday night, when the Neville Brothers perform at the Vilar Center at 7:30. The Beaver Creek show is just one stop on a swing through Colorado for the Nevilles. The group is on a wider American and international tour in support of last year’s album, “Walking in the Shadow of Life.” The Nevilles have spent decades walking in that shadow. Oldest brother Art cut his first record in 1954 with the Hawkettes. That single, “Mardi Gras Mambo,” has become one of the theme songs of New Orleans.Through the 1960s and into the 1970s brothers Art, Charles, Aaron and Cyril moved in and out of each other’s musical lives, from the Hawkettes to legendary Meters, finally coming together as the Neville Brothers in 1977.

Since then, the brothers – and now Aaron’s son Ivan – and their bandmates have used intricate harmonies, crack musicianship, and their uncanny ability to channel the universal groove to send large doses of funk and soul to the feet and fannies of audiences all over the world.On this tour, the Nevilles have been playing theaters and small halls, and plenty of them. “This year we’re out on the road a lot,” Neville said. “I suppose we’ll be out about half this year.”With a history of music stretching back a half-century, settling on a nightly set list could be a chore. But Charles Neville said the choices are easy.”We just let the singers decide,” he said. “We mix it up every night,” he said. “We play about 50-50 songs from the new album and older songs. The number of tunes depends on the time we have for the show.”

It’s that kind of variety that keeps life interesting for the group. “What we’re producing is music, and not some kind of pre-programmed show,” Neville said. And, after all these years, sibling rivalries take a back seat to the music.”This is our life’s music,” Neville said. “You have to be able to link together.”It’s that link that keeps the Nevilles vibrant. Neville said performing is still a thrill.

“I can’t imagine wanting to retire,” he said.While the music remains exciting, the life of a touring musician isn’t easy. For the Nevilles, though, being out on the road as long as they have does have one benefit.”Nothing’s much of a surprise any more,” Neville said.While the road can be a grind, the destinations are still important.”It’s what we do, bringing music to the people,” Neville said.Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.comVail Colorado

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