The Meters plan to reunite for a nighttime concert at the Orpheum Theater on the opening day of the 2016 New Orleans Jazz Fest. Tickets for the Friday, April 22 show go on sale to the general public Jan. 15, following a Jan. 13 pre-sale.
For the Orpheum gig, the four original Meters -– keyboardist Art Neville, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste -– will be augmented by Neville’s nephew Ivan Neville on keys and vocals. They’ll also be bolstered by a four-piece horn section consisting of trumpeter Tracy Griffin, trombonist Jeff Albert and saxophonists Khris Royal and Clarence Johnson III.
Show time is 10 p.m., to give fans time to transition from a long day at the Fair Grounds. The show is open to all ages.
Tickets are $62.50 for general admission in the Orpheum gallery, $72.50 for general admission, standing-room only on the ground level, or $82.50 for a reserved seat in the balcony. Additional service charges apply. The limited pre-sale on Jan. 13 is via a presale code available at Jambase.com, LiveForLiveMusic.com and OffBeat.com. Remaining tickets go on sale Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. Central Time at orpheumnola.com or via the Orpheum box office. Call (504) 274-4870 or email email@example.com for additional information.
The history of the Meters equates to the history of New Orleans funk. Art Neville had already released a slate of New Orleans rhythm & blues singles -– he sang lead on the Hawketts’ 1954 version of “Mardi Gras Mambo,” and recorded the Allen Toussaint composition “All These Things,” among others -– when he recruited Nocentelli, Porter and Modeliste for what became the Meters.
The band had a steady gig at the Ivanhoe on Bourbon Street when Toussaint and business partner Marshall Sehorn enlisted them as the house band for their Sansu Enterprises production company. They appeared on recordings by Lee Dorsey, Earl King, Robert Palmer, Dr. John and many other artists.
In 1969, the Meters cracked the R&B charts under their own name with the instrumentals “Cissy Strut” and “Sophisticated Cissy.” Those and subsequent recordings – “Look-ka Py Py,” “Pungee,” “Tippi-Toes,” “Chicken Strut,” “Just Kissed My Baby,” “People Say” “Fire On the Bayou,” “They All Ask’d For You” -- laid the foundation for slinky, syncopated New Orleans funk. Their 1974 version of “Hey Pocky A-way” remains a Carnival season standard.
Art’s youngest brother, Cyril Neville, joined the band in 1975 prior to a tour with the Rolling Stones. Beset by business and personal frustrations, the Meters fractured two years later, though variations on the original line-up continued to perform sporadically. In 1989, Art Neville, Nocentelli and Porter installed Russell Batiste on drums and resurrected the Meters name. After Nocentelli’s departure in 1994, they continued as the Funky Meters with former Neville Brothers guitarist Brian Stoltz.
The original Meters set aside their differences for a single show in San Francisco in 2000. In 2005, they came together again at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell, which led to additional concerts. Young fans recognized the decades-old riffs and rhythms via jam band tributes and scores of Meters samples on rap records.
A less-than-stellar performance at the 2006 Voodoo made clear that their reunion was waning. By early 2007, they had called it quits; among other issues was a disagreement about whether to perform at the 2007 Bonnaroo. In the summer of 2011, they finally did make it to Bonnaroo, accompanying Dr. John for a performance of his 1974 album “Desitively Bonnaroo”; the Meters had backed him on the original recording.
They have joined forces less frequently in recent years, though they did come together at the Fair Grounds for the 2015 Jazz Fest. The Orpheum show is likely to be their only collective appearance during the 2016 festival.
The Orpheum has announced one other Jazz Fest-week showcase: An evening with Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief and renowned modern jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. on Tuesday, April 26.