Black Music Month "The Gospel According to Al Green"

What's Black Music Month without some Al Green, I'll never forget this night...

There was no better way to conclude a summer that included concert performances by Erykah Badu, Anthony Hamilton, Marsha Ambrosius, Kindred the Family Soul, Musiq Soulchild, Janelle Monae, Raheem DeVaughn, Kem, Leela James, J Cole, Bilal and Jaheim than going to see Al Green. Yes, I went to see each of those artists in the past three months, some multiple times, but the highlight of the summer was this past Saturday night when I ventured to Atlantic City to see Al Green.

Taking the stage at exactly 9pm, he transported the capacity crowd back to the mid-70's and even further at times for an evening of classic soul music. Time may have aged the man, but his voice knows none of his sixty-four years, because his flawless falsetto caused hundreds of shrills from the women who came to Caesars Palace to see him Saturday night. And the hits…yes, those hits, "L.O.V.E.", "Let's Get Married" and a cover of Roy Orbison's "Oh Pretty Woman" led into abbreviated versions of "I Can't Get Next to You" and "Call Me", which left the crowd wanting more.

Before he gave the folks what they came for, he stopped to talk about the balance between his worship and his secular music of yester-year, noting that God has shown him that love is an essential part of faith and he's only singing song of love and God can be found in the love he sings about. A soul stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace" followed, before he stepped away from the spotlight to allow his background singers, daughters, Rubi, Alva and Kora to sing a verse of their own. Instantly, the Saturday night soul concert was transformed into a Sunday morning service for a few minutes as he urged the audience to sing along.

Obvious that he intended to give the glory to God regardless of the set list, he transitioned into the hits that have made him a legend, when he opened "Let's Stay Together" with an acapella refrain, the entire place erupted. Still the ladies' man, he passed out roses to the lucky ladies in within his reach as he moved across the stage singing and a couple of male dancers added a great touch to the performance. He barely had to sing "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" because those in attendance wanted to be more than background vocalists for this song, so he elected to play choir director for most of the song.

It is very possible that my date and I were the youngest people in attendance, so when he began to speak in reference to music I was raised on, I was sure we were in for a Bill Cosby type rant. However, he was simply using that as a prelude to the music he was raised on before going in a medley of songs from a generation before his stardom came. He performed the classics of The Four Tops "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)", The Temptations' "My Girl", Sam Cooke "Bring it on Home to Me", The Stylistics "You Are Everything" and Otis Redding "Dock of the Bay", igniting roars of approval from the crowd who undoubtedly came of age between both generations of music.

He was back to his catalog (and distributing roses) as he removed and replaced his suit jacket often while he sang "Tired of Being Alone" and "I'm Still in Love with You", while the women took turns coming towards the stage for a closer view, to touch his hand, get a rose, snap a picture or as one woman tried all night, hand him a napkin (which he refused numerous times). He unexpectedly, but pleasantly sang "Simply Beautiful", a 2004 duet with Queen Latifah and I was all smiles, as my date for the evening was all night. As the show's momentum built, there was no doubt what song was next and folks sat on the edge of their seats, teeming with excitement as he began one of the most popular songs ever with the simple phrase, "Love and Happiness" and then came the explosion as he sang a 10-minute version of his biggest hit.

There was nowhere to go after "Love and Happiness" but home or wherever the night led you, because that was where Al Green left us. 90 minutes after he took the stage, I felt like he was gone too soon, until I realized he had performed nearly every song I had come to hear with the exception of "For the Good Times" and "Lay It Down", but how could I complain after he gave more than he needed to give that night? After 37 years of performing before sold-out crowds the world over, his showmanship was not lacking as he jumped off the stage at one point, danced, laughed and talked with the audience like old friends, sang songs that have brought smiles to people's faces and warmed hearts over the past four decades. What more could I want, except tickets to his next show.

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