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Neville Brothers to close next New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

The Neville Brothers are going to close the next New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

It will be the group's first hometown performance since Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans and scattering the four brothers across the country.

Art, the eldest of the Neville Brothers, is the only one living in New Orleans since the storm. Charles is living in the Northampton, Massachusetts, area, Cyril is in Austin, Texas, and Aaron is in Nashville, Tennessee.

On Thursday, Art joined his son Ian and nephew Ivan Neville, the son of Aaron Neville, for a brief performance celebrating the Nevilles Brothers' return to the festival.

"This is how it should be," Art Neville said, after a news conference with festival organizers. "We're a part of Jazz Fest."

Festival organizers say they have been anticipating the return of the Neville Brothers. Their comeback was put on hold largely because of Aaron Neville's concerns about aggravating his asthma while also dealing with the illness and eventual death of his wife, Joel Roux-Neville. She died of lung cancer on Jan. 5.

This year, New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr. and his 18-piece orchestra closed the festival in place of the Neville Brothers. Though Connick had played Jazz Fest a half-dozen times previously, he never had the closing set before.

In 2006, the first festival after the storm, Fats Domino was slated to close but canceled just hours before show time. He made a brief appearance on stage, tipping his hat to fans, but Lionel Richie filled in at the last minute.

Next year's Jazz Fest dates are April 25-27 and May 1-4. The Neville Brothers will perform on Sunday, May 4.

"This is a great day for Jazz Fest, and this is a great day for New Orleans," said Quint Davis, the festival's producer.

"If you can't feel joy today, then you're not alive," said Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who heads state tourism efforts.

Ivan Neville said Thursday's celebration was bittersweet, as it made him think about his mother and how she will not be around for the Neville Brothers' hometown performance.

"I really miss her a lot," he said. "She was always there, and we're all going to be missing her."

Festival organizers also announced Thursday that Louisiana native country music star Tim McGraw will close the festival's first weekend on Sunday, April 27. Other artists who confirmed they will perform are contemporary R&B favorites Frankie Beverly and Maze.

Organizers also announced they are restoring Thursday to the festival's second weekend, making the event a total of seven days for the first time since Katrina. The festival was scaled back to six days the past two years.

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