Far too many times special benefit concerts for people in need feel like nobody, save for those who organized the event, has any idea of why the concert is even taking place. The performers come out and play their asked for song, maybe mouth some platitude, and the massed audience, both live and at home watching the simulcast "live" feed in the comfort of their living room, are sitting back enjoying the show.
Every so often somebody will get up and address the crowd, but their ears have been so shell-shocked by the concert noise they can't make out a word of what's being said to them even if they cared to listen. But once in a long while there comes along one of these concerts where, through a combination of circumstances and organizational savvy, the audience can't help but be aware of the reasons for the event.
Judging by the double DVD release of the event, From The Big Apple To The Big Easy, such was the case with a benefit concert performed in New York City for the city of New Orleans just weeks after Hurricane Katrina had left the city in ruins and displaced thousands upon thousands of people from their homes and loved ones.
It was one of those rare events where those on the stage and in the audience were equally cognizant about what they were all doing there.
To begin with nearly three quarters of the musicians who performed that night had lost everything they owned when the floodwaters hit, as they were residents of New Orleans. If nothing else it proved the indiscriminate nature of a hurricane as both the renowned and the barely known were equally bereft. From the Neville Brothers of international fame to the Rebirth Brass Band of far less acclaim they were all, as Aaron Neville's baseball cap so eloquently spelled out, evacuees.
The mood of the evening was set with the opening, as the Rebirth Brass Band and horn player Troy Andrews walked through the audience playing a traditional funeral dirge that leads mourners to the graveyards of New Orleans. "Dirge/Celebrate" started with the band playing their mournful air out among the high rollers on the floor of Madison Square Garden, and saw them climb to the stage to switch gears to lead us back to the living with the dance music associated with after the burial service is over and done with.