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Senior Bowl’s Nelly Concert Kicks Off Mardi Gras in Mobile

Senior Bowl’s Nelly Concert Kicks Off Mardi Gras in Mobile

No, there was no heat. not by a long shot. Nonetheless, rapper Nelly capped off an extraordinary opening night of Mobile’s Mardi Gras season, as the Reese’s Senior Bowl boosted festivities on Friday with the first downtown Carnival parade of 2023.

The case can be made that the first parade of the evening consisted entirely of tow trucks, as an armada of them worked to clear the parade route and some surrounding streets of parked vehicles. According to the Mobile Police Department, 64 parking citations were issued and 34 vehicles were towed. With the route and adjacent emergency corridors duly cleared, Senior Bowl players, coaches and other participants had a small parade of their own that began at 6 p.m.

Connected: Mardi Gras Parade Season Opens in Mobile as Conde Cavaliers Roll Out (with photos)

After a brief intermission, the Conde Cavaliers proceeded along Route A, appearing to enjoy the huge crowd despite the fact that temperatures were diving into the 40s. The total crowd estimate from the Mobile Police Department was 59,136, well below its 2022 estimate of 93,000, but within a whisker of the 59,080 projected for the Cavaliers’ pre-pandemic (and nelly-free) turnout in 2020.

Usually the cleaning caravan which followed the last boat of the Cavaliers would signal the end of the evening. But Senior Bowl organizers put on an extra, one-hour Nellie show that drew several thousand people to Mardi Gras Park.

The concert was a percussive, more or less nonstop performance, with the rapper moving quickly from one song to the next. He repeatedly thanked “all of you who have held down your man Nellie for 22, 23, 24 years… I want to thank all of you for that.” In particular he wanted to thank everyone “who has been riding with Nellie since day one.”

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Nelly’s biggest hits came between 2000 and 2010, including “Ride Wit Me” and “Hot in Herre”, and that material received the biggest response from a diverse all-ages crowd that fueled Mobile’s long-standing history. Brought back memories of the Belfast music festival. (In fact, Nelly was one of the headliners at that event in 2010.) But she also touched on new material like “Cruise,” a collaboration with country group Florida Georgia Line.

“I can’t say this enough, I’ve been saying this since the first day I stepped on stage, I’m going to say this until the last day I step on stage, I’m going to say this through this whole show.” Going to say: “Alabama, it’s truly an honor and a pleasure to be here in front of you tonight,” said the St. Louis Star.

With the show ending at 9:30, the crowd seemed eager to go somewhere hot. But even the broken beads and damp confetti after the cleaning crew’s first pass testified: The season has begun.

A schedule of field parades is available here.

For continuing coverage, visit www.al.com/mardigras.

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