Jazz Fest, A Love Story

Diana Ross performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Saturday, May 4. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

 

Some folks have suggested recently that my writing has a tendency towards negativity. That I complain too much. So, for a final take on Jazz Fest 2019 (and to prove the bastids wrong) I want to talk about love.

I am far from the first to note that Saints home games bring out the better angels in our city. Superdome Sundays are a wondrous spectacle of brotherhood, sisterhood and community, with all manner of differences in race, gender, ethnicity, economic status and religiosity dispatched for common cause.

Sometimes, particularly if we are winning, it can be more like church than church. After all, what other team has as its motto: Faith.

Strangers sing together, dance together, clap together, laugh together, cry together.

I often wish we could bottle whatever mojo it is that prompts such overt and spontaneous expression and keep it close by during the rest of the week in our homes and offices, shops and restaurants, and especially in our cars.

No, my friend, you go first.

And they say it’s only a game.

Which brings us back to Jazz Fest 2019. I will remember it as the year I fell back in love with the festival. Much of that had to do with a veritable smash of visitors I entertained, my favorite friends and family from around the country and the world.

Much had to do with the weather; but for an early second Saturday rain, it was nearly perfect from beginning to end.

Much had to do with the fact that I never went to the Acura Stage. (To keep the Saints analogy alive, that place can be like enduring a 42-3 loss to the Falcons. Or a blown call.)

But most had to do with the singularly sublime performance by, and audience reaction to, the divine Ms. Ross. The supreme Supreme. The name of love.

She surprised me in many ways, all to delight. First of all, she showed up. No small feat considering the number of senior citizens who did not, due to health or scheduling concerns: Mick Jagger, Jerry Lee Lewis, Stevie Nicks, Bob Seger, John Prine, etc.

With the exception of Jerry Lee, Ms. Ross would have been the odds-on favorite to cancel. She does, after all, have a bit of a diva rep.

But, wow. When she ascended upon the Gentilly Stage (“walked onto” would not aptly describe her gilded entrance) she was dressed in a burst of yellow, prompting my beloved partner to observe: “She looks like the sun.”

And radiate she did. From start to finish. From a flawless run through her old Motown hits to her solo hits, it was a career retrospective delivered with breathless joy, a blinding smile, an ocean of hair and five seamless costume changes.

Question: Who changes outfits at Jazz Fest!

Answer: Ms. Ross.

But the greatest joy was watching the crowd. I was looking away from the stage as often as at it. And it was a sea of brotherhood, of sisterhood, of community. A dancefest. A hugfest. A lovefest.

Tears were shed. Hands held. Bonds sealed. Wounds healed.

OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but tears were definitely shed. Ditto the hands and bonds.

It was a gathering of ages, races and creeds to cover the entire census. Kids, teens, millenials, boomers, elders. Everyone knew all the words, the (real) sun shined, a gentle breeze blew, her gowns radiated pastel color wheels, her hair swayed like palms in a zephyr, so stout and lush that you could have crawled up in there and taken a nap.

She truly is a singular sensation. Nobody has ever looked or sounded like that. And very few have ever brought such a harmonic convergence of humanity together in one big ball of love like I witnessed last Saturday.

Funny thing is, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell I would have gone to see her if not for the S.O. My original impression upon hearing that she was performing was a general meh. But it was the brightest circle on my beloved partner’s cubes and thus, I was duly present.

Obligatorily present in the beginning, energized throughout, enthralled by the end.

It was a spectacle for the ages. It made me feel really good about being alive and being there. And I think I speak the same for the assembled masses.

Miss Ross is what we talk about when we talk about love.

And in its name, after you read this, remember to reach out and touch somebody.

 

Categories: Me Again

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