The Neville Brothers' generous two-hour set before a capacity crowd Friday at the Palace found the veteran New Orleans band on the horns of a career dilemma. Trotting out old standbys like "Hey Pocky Way" just reinforces the Nevilles' dual image as regional revivalists with little to offer the modern pop audience. But focusing on new material to establish the band's contemporary appeal risks a ho-hum response and downplays the music's most exciting, distinctive elements.
The Nevilles opted for the latter route this trip with limited success. The new songs proficiently blended reggae, R&B and pop ingredients, but sacrificed the group's rhythmic dynamism and largely relegated flashy percussionist Cyril Neville to a supporting role. The rocking "Midnight Key to the City," "Money Back Guarantee" and "Superpowers Better Wake Up" were among the few fresh tunes to rise above the level of anonymous craftsmanship.