Sunday, September 18, 2005

AL GREEN: SHORT, SWEET, INTENSE


Last night as I was leaving the Al Green concert at the Santa Fe Opera, a woman called to me from a car. "Write something fantastic about the show." I smiled and nodded, feeling a little guilty that I wasn't there to review the show, but to enjoy it.

(People always assume I'm always on duty. I remember when my daughter was in elementary school, back when I was a cop reporter. I went to her science fair and a fellow parent asked me, "Are you going to write about this?" I replied, "Not unless someone gets killed here.")

The woman in the Opera parking lot, apparently trying to seal her lobbying effort for a fantastic review for Rev. Green, added, "He saved my life tonight."

Other people at the show had similar quasi-religious responses. A few minutes before, I'd spoken with an acquaintance who said he'd been down on his luck for the past few years. "But everything's going to be allright, that's what Al Green told us," the man said, referring to the title of one of Green's gospel hits he'd performed Saturday. "That was the message of this show. Everything's gonna be allright! That's the message of Christianity as well as rock 'n' roll."

Indeed, Green gave a fantastic show, albiet a relatively short one. He raised an incredible amount of joyful energy. I won't say he saved my life, but it sure felt good while he was singing.

His band -- two guitars, two keyboards, two drums, two female singers, bass and three-man horn section -- was tight and mighty. Green himself seemed to be ON. His vocals were impeccible, gliding effortless between soulful shouts and his trademark falsetto. His smile was infectuous. I don't know how many long-stemmed roses he passed out to adoring audience members.

As you'll see in the set list below, Green stuck mainly to his older, more familiar hits, though he opened with the title song of his 2004 album. He was a jubilent preacher in his upbeat songs like "Let's Stay Together," "Here I Am" and "Tired of Being Alone" On his cover of The Bee Gee's "How can You Mend a Broken Heart" Green, well, broke your heart. His short takes on classic '60s soul hits was tantilizing. I wish he'd have done full versions of "I Can't Help Myself" and San Cooke's "Bring it on Home to Me." The final song, "Love and Happiness" built into an estatic frenzy.

Green and band left the stage after that one, which didn't surprise me. I figured they'd come back for an encore and take it all the way to the top with "Take Me to the River."

But no.

I've been going to concerts for more than 40 years now, (my first was The Beach Boys at Oklahoma City's Springlake amusement park in the summer of 1964) and only recently -- Al Green and Rickie Lee Jones -- have I seen performers refuse to do encores while hundreds of screaming fans begging for more.

I'm not sure whether this was the singer's choice or some weird rule of the Opera's of which I'm unaware. But, as wonderful as Green's performance had been, this left a weird taste in my mouth. He kept saying he loved us, but when he didn't come back I felt cheap and used.

Speaking of the Opera, they just started having popular music concerts there a couple of years ago. This was the first non-opera concert I've seen there and I was impressed. The seats are comfortable and the open air (but roofed!) structure is gorgeous. I hope Fan Man brings a lot more shows there next summer. The Opera could become Santa Fe's answer to Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Al Green Set List
September 17, 2005
The Santa Fe Opera
Santa Fe, N.M.


I Can't Stop
Let's Get Married
Everything's Gonna Be Allright
Amazing Grace
Let's Stay Together
How Do You Mend a Broken Heart
Here I Am (Come and Take Me)
Simply Beautiful {note: I'm not 100 percent sure of this one. Feel free to correct me in the comments section.}
Medley: I Can't Help Myself/Bring It On Home To Me/My Girl/I've Been Loving You Too Long Tired of Being Alone
Love and Happiness

Here's my Pasatiempo interview with Al Green.

Tune in for a lengthy Al Green set on Terrell's Sound World, KSFR, 90.7 FM tonight about 11 p.m.

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