Having "Mac" Rebennack, the master of Crescent City funk and swampy voodoo soul known as Dr. John, appear at New Hope's dark, multicultural Havana eatery Wednesday - one week before Mischief Night and Halloween - was perfect timing.
At 72, the good Doctor hasn't lost a bit of his murkily mysterious mystique, his flavorful dedication to the most joyful and most haunted elements of New Orleans' musicality, or that naughty crackle in his soulful, snarling voice signaling ghostly romanticism and danger. John's ever-present, low-slung, snap-brim chapeau and black sunglasses only enhanced his bewitching appeal.
With a sympathetic quintet behind him (including aggressive trombonist Sarah Morrow) and a skull set upon his piano, Dr. John ran the voodoo down for two tight hours, starting with the percolating "The Dr. Is In." From that moment, John's piano hands tap-danced across the keys like the Nicholas Brothers, with speed, passion, and a sniper's accuracy. During the honky-tonking "How Come My Dog Don't Bark" and a tantalizing boogaloo version of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale," the pianist teased each run with a deliciously snaky playfulness. By the time he hit "Goodnight Irene," his piano's bluesy tone went from slowly simmering to roughly rollicking with his voice turned into a lover's scuffed-up plea.