The bill was titled “New Orleans Classic Divas” but the set belonged to just one of them: Wanda Rouzan.
At the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell Saturday, Rouzan performed solo for the majority of the hour-long set in the Blues Tent, backed by a big band featuring three horn players who helped beef up her setlist of oldies from the heyday of New Orleans R&B: “"Ooh Poo Pah Doo” (Jessie Hill), “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)” (Barbara George), “Let the Good Times Roll” (Shirley and Lee), and even the “Electric Boogie” that served as an instructional for a group electric slide lesson.
Rouzan’s roots go back to her time in the Rouzan Sisters, a sister act that enjoyed one hit single, “Men of War,” in 1964. Dedicated to local men shipped to Vietnam, the song appeared late in the set and starting with a rendition of “Taps,” proved to still have relevancy today.
Up to that point, Rouzan led a rousing dance party with revelers crammed together down every aisle and entryway. Despite the suggestion that the fire marshal was likely worried by the human traffic jam, it was too late: Rouzan had already fired up the crowd. “I want to act like you’re in my living room in my house and we’re having a party,” she said.
She sang with bawdy luster and commanded the crowd with wisecracks and, indeed, diva swagger. Hips were swiveled and she got to high stepping before teaching the crowd the electric slide. They complied. When she broke out a whistle, it was time to go to Treme with the John Boutte’s theme from the television show. At that point, a second line formed in the crowd and there was no going back.