Off to the NIA to see Al Green on the fourth of July (yee-ha and so forth). This was my first time using one of those barcoded ‘tickets’ that they email to you as an attachment for you to print. Naturally, I was petrified. I know they’ve been in use for a while now (even if I hadn’t heard of them until recently), but I still couldn’t help but imagine in the run-up that I’d get the one doorman who has never heard of them or that the barcode wouldn’t scan or whatever-have-you, and it’d end up being a long and embarassing pain in the arse to get in. I’m like that. I’m a worrier.
Candi Staton was a pretty high-profile support act for a non-package tour, but despite that (and although I know I probably should) I don’t in all honesty know particularly much about her beyond the obvious couple of hits. Her first few songs turn out to be polite and distastefully tasteful soul (including none-too-thrilling covers of ‘Stand By Your Man’ and ‘In The Ghetto’). You could feel a distinct sense of “Just get on with it and play ‘Young Hearts Run Free'” in the air. She did, and everyone was happy. She then did the customary boring ‘introduce the band and have them all do a solo’ bit, and I wasn’t happy. Any punch that “You Got The Love” might have had as a set-ender was rendered moot by that point.
The crowd stayed more unresponsive than you’d expect for Al Green. This surprised me, a lot. When writing about Smokey Robinson the other day I mentioned (in the vaguest way possible) the amazing atmosphere shared by the first Al Green gig I saw, at the Symphony Hall. It’s hardly likely to be the same thing in the NIA (even this half-curtained off ‘NIA Academy’ version), but even given that this felt like a ‘cold’ audience. I think Al knew, too (not to suggest he was anything less than professional. Or as professional as a man who seems to forget what he’s going on about halfway through a long rambling story can be. Which is still extremely professional, funnily enough. I like that, though. I do that myself. It’s nice to know someone of his stature gets a bit lost sometimes too).
It put a damper on things, anyway. The other shocker was the ending – Al said his goodbyes before leaving the stage, and the band jammed on, solo solo solo. And on. And on. Naturally, one would expect him to be coming back for an encore. They stopped playing… and up came the houselights. Eh? Finished at ten (not a problem in itself) and the grand finale consisting of some buncha lads going “Diddly doo diddly doo diddly doo” over and over again? Not impressive.
Still: Albert himself, “Let’s Stay Together,” “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” “Take Me To The River” (hurrah! He didn’t do that last time), “Love And Happiness”… you can’t go wrong, really. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first time I saw him, though.
Forget what I said the other day about them both sounding like Bill Cosby, by the way – Smokey’s Cosbyism pales in comparison to the Cosbyosity of Al. I’d forgotten just how strong the similarity was.