NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The Neville Brothers, one of New Orleans’ most famous musical families, on Wednesday sought to soothe hurt feelings stirred by their absence since Hurricane Katrina by returning to the city’s jazz festival.
The band has not played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival since the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, but the brothers are now slated to take over the traditional closing set at this year’s festival on Sunday night.
“We were being a part of the recovery, we were doing benefits all over the world,” Aaron Neville, told a news conference where the band received a key to the city. “I wanted to come back, but my wife had cancer and I had to move somewhere to survive. It’s as simple as that.”
The Neville brothers — Art, 70, Charles, 69, Aaron, 67, and Cyril, 60 — were forced to settle outside New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina flooded four-fifths of the city.
The band also sought to highlight how difficult the recovery has been for the tens of thousands of people who were displaced by the storm.
“If it’s hard for people like us, you can imagine how hard it is for most people,” Cyril told Reuters after the event.
Shortly after the storm, Cyril, who relocated to Austin, Texas, enraged many locals by publicly criticizing the New Orleans music scene, charging officials there with conspiring to keep out many displaced black residents. At the time, he also vowed not to return to the city to live.
Aaron Neville, who first hit the charts as a solo artist in 1966 with the song “Tell it Like it Is,” lost his New Orleans home to Katrina’s floodwaters and moved to Tennessee. He has since moved back to the New Orleans area.
Charles Neville lived in Massachusetts before the storm, while Art Neville moved back to New Orleans weeks after the hurricane.
The band has not performed together in the city since Katrina.
The jazz festival resumed eight months after the storm, when the city was still largely unpopulated, drawing about 300,000 people. This year’s two-week festival started on April 25.