Absolute Magic! On May 9, legend of soul, Al Green, performed for a capacity crowd at the storied Greek Theatre, and the electricity flowed from the moment he stepped on stage until the epic closing with an 11-minute rendition of “Love and Happiness.” At 73 years young, Green’s charm, emotional intimacy, and gorgeous vocal range are as strong as ever. His masterful artistry and poignant belief in the power of music remain indelible; especially for anyone fortunate enough to enjoy a rare live performance. The Los Angeles show marked the last night of an eight-city revival, Green’s first tour in seven years, which kicked off February 23 in Marion, Ill., followed by stops in Texas, La., Ga., N.Y. and Calif.
Always one to surround himself with phenomenal artists, Reverend Green chose phenom singer, Jessy Wilson, as his opener, with her gravelly old-school vocal stylings to set the tone for the evening. The funky soulful dynamo gushed about the opportunity to open for a living legend, and when Al appeared, it was clear that he was presenting himself to a house full of lifelong fans. Despite a light spattering of rain at the start of the show, the packed crowd that spanned all ages and cultures was permanently mesmerized. The cheeky grin that made Green famous shone as brightly as ever, matched only by his tender vulnerability, touched perhaps by his determination to get through what seemed like a combination of end-of-tour exhaustion and exhilaration.
Green was backed by a stellar thirteen-piece band including two keyboardists, two drummers, two guitarists, a bass player, a three-piece horn section (saxophone, trumpet, trombone), and three backing vocalists. He clearly came to play full out. The concert opened with “Love and Affection,” bringing the crowd to its feet and sending a loud message that this man still has his chops. As is his custom, he handed out long-stemmed roses to the ladies in the crowd, and his set included fan favorites that have kept us all going for years: “Let’s Get Married,” “For The Good Times,” “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Still In Love With You and Simply Beautiful,” along with a lovely cover of the Bee Gees classic, “How Do You Mend A Broken Heart.” The set also included a retro cover medley of “Can’t Help Myself” (The Four Tops), “I’ve Been Loving You” (Otis Redding), “Sitting On The Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding), and “You Are Everything” (The Stylistics), rounded out with the Al Green classic (that he has confessed to be a favorite to perform), “So Tired of Being Alone.” If you wanted more, you were not listening.
A tangible message of love and camaraderie anchored the show, and a deep, respectful look of awe rested on the faces of all in attendance for most of the evening. The welcoming comfort of the scene was indescribable and - 70 is the new 50 - Mr. Green still possesses the gift of making you feel as though you are the only person he is singing to. If you have not yet seen this gentleman perform live, I highly recommend you make every effort to do so when he goes back on tour. He once said:
“Love is the greatest gift in the world; if you have that, then all this other stuff in the news wouldn’t be going on.” - Rev. Al Green
Green’s last studio album was in 2008 called Lay It Down, but the Reverend is not one to sit still, and there is already talk of an upcoming country album of cover songs, so watch for his next chapter.
To keep up with Al Green, follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/algreen
To find out more about Jessy Wilson, who opened for Al Green, check her website at jessy-wilson.com
Photos Credit: Tony Shibumi