The final day of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival found Kid Rock playing to a crowd that seemed to appreciate the various sides of his personality. There was his rebellious David Allen Coe mode on tracks like “Cowboy” and “Somebody’s Gotta Feel This” – when he was inventive, funny and larger than life. Then there was his evocation of Bob Seger – the average, working-class guy from Michigan – when he sat at the piano singing “Care” and stood on top of it for the encore of “Born Free.” And during “All Summer Long,” he got an assist from New Orleans’ Trombone Shorty, who came out for an incendiary solo, then a quick, intense cutting session with Kid Rock’s sax player Dave McMurray.
Yesterday was also New Orleans proto-jam band the Radiators’ last Jazz Fest; the group is calling it quits after 33 years. Their version of “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,” with BeauSoleil fiddle player Michael Doucet, was inspired and wryly funny, but when Warren Haynes leaned into a slide guitar solo on the blues standard “Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie,” the moment took on a discordant Allmans-like tint.
To the band’s credit, they gave the majority of the vocals to keyboard player and principal songwriter Ed Volker, whose decision to quit prompted their farewell tour. He sang their closing number, a version of Chris Kenner’s “I Like it Like That” that made the band’s relevance clear. The Radiators have been the living connection between the heyday of New Orleans R&B, with members having played with Earl King and Professor Longhair among others. But they translated those influences into an inclusive rock context, one that could also involve Haynes, Doucet, Little Feat’s Paul Barrere and the trombone players from Bonerama Sunday without being a faithful cover or a shapeless jam. The moment was a solid statement of who the Radiators are and a fitting end to their Jazz Fest days.