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Published: 2005/09/21

Tom Waits, Bill Clinton, Trey Anastasio and The Meters Bring Mardi Gras to Manhattan

Trey Anastasio closed out Radio City’s From the Big Apple to the Big Easy benefit with a guest-laden jam session featuring many of the evening’s entertainers. After performing a short, upbeat set with 70 Volt Parade, Anastasio invited Dave Matthews onstage for a version of Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds.’ As 70 Volt Parade completed the song’s composed section, a number of musicians began to filter in from the wings including The Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indians, Ivan Neville and Galactic’s Stanton Moore and Ben Ellman, as well as members of the Rebirth Brass Band. As Matthews faded offstage, the crowd’s focus shifted to the Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indians who led the supergroup through the Big Easy staple ‘Big Chief.’ Matthews returned a song later for a show closing version of Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘Thank You (Fallettin’ Me Be Mice Elf Again),’ with Eric Krasno joining in on guitar. As Radio City dropped its sky-scrapper size curtain the audience trickled onto the street, still singing Sly and the Family Stone’s anthem.
Decorated with Mardi Gras Beads and spiced up with authentic New Orleans cuisine Radio City Music Hall welcomed a sold out crowd to the more intimate of New York’s two From the Big Apple to the Big Easy Benefits. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band opened the nearly six hour show with a brief set before fellow New Orleans natives Galactic and the Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indians officially kicked-off the evening’s festivities. Performing its first New York show in over 25 years, The Meters stacked its short set with New Orleans anthems including ‘Cissy Strut’ and ‘Fire on the Bayou,’ a number which seemed to take on new meaning in the wake of hurricane Katrina. A bit later Meters, keyboardist Art Neville returned for a set with the Neville Brothers before scooting across town for a performance at Madison Square Garden. Continuing to develop the new, more blues oriented sound he has experimented with all year John Mayer performed a brief set with drummer Steve Jordan and bassist Pino Palladino. After peaking with an elongated ‘Gravity,’ Joss Stone helped the Trio close out its performance. As fans bid in Radio City’s silent lavish auction, The Rebirth Brass Band also entertained audience members floating throughout the lobby.
The night’s non-musical entertainment ranged from heroic to horrendous. Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance early on in the evening discussing the first trip he took to New Orleans as a child. ‘It was the first time I saw a building more than two-stories tall,’ the 42nd President said. The evening’s MC Harry Shearer, best known for voicing Simpsons’ characters like Mr. Burns and Principal Skinner, lost the crowd early with his political commentary. The New Orleans resident was booed continuously throughout the evening until he resorted to plugging _The Simpsons’ _ upcoming season.
Perhaps the evening’s most unique segment, Tom Waits performed a short song set backed by an all-star ensemble which included Marc Ribot, Charlie Musselwhite and Smokey Hormel. Though plagued with sound problems, Waits soldiered on performing numbers like ‘Way Down in the Hole,’ ‘Jesus Gonna be Here,’ ‘Get Behind the Mule,’ ‘Take Care of All My Children,’ ‘House Where Nobody Lives’ and ‘Make it Rain.’ A particularly inspiring version of ‘I Wish I was in New Orleans’ helped Waits earn the evening’s sole encore.
Dave Matthews also bounced between benefits, performing ‘Heart of Gold’ with Jimmy Buffet at Madison Square Garden before offering his own segment at Radio City Music Hall. A nine-song mix of solo numbers and DMB-classics, Matthews’ set mirrored his performance at Farm Aid earlier in the week. At the end of his performance, Anastasio also joined in on guitar for Matthews’ ‘Everyday’ and Phish’s ‘Bathtub Gin.’ Be sure to check this afternoon for a report on From the Big Apple to the Big Easy’s Madison Square Garden counterpart.

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