Above: The Rev. Al Green brings “Love and Happiness.”
By Joel Francis
After barely over an hour onstage, Al Green said goodnight, grabbed a small black duffle bag and exited. The gesture was symbolic of the evening: the bags were packed and he was ready to go.
Saturday’s concert at the Midland Theater was the final stop on Green’s eight-month tour that took him across America and around Europe; he was anxious to get home.
“Two month is a long time,” he said. “Even a preacher can’t go that long.”
That might explain the truncated set – 77 minutes, with no encore – and why it always felt like Green had one foot off the stage.
For the most part, Green let his 13-piece band and the audience do most of the heavy lifting. After introducing the first couple lines, Green was all too happy to let the audience take over his songs. Beaming from ear to ear, he was content to scat guide vocals over the crowd’s singing and hand roses to women in the front rows.
Green Hovered like a cloud over the numbers, dipping in just long enough to let out a scream or prove the health of his pipes. When he fully immersed himself in a song, the result was even better than his allusions. During “Tired of Being Alone” Green dropped to his knees and uncurled a falsetto that raised goose bumps. He poured his heart into “Amazing Grace” and came alive during a medley of Motown and Stax numbers that inspired him as a boy.
It would be easy to assume Green was simply bored with his repertoire if he wasn’t so perpetually joyous. After overcoming some early monitor problems, Green chatted effusively to the crowd, healing the Kansas/Missouri divide, telling stories from the tour and preaching a little gospel. Since Green had tossed “Let’s Stay Together” out a half-hour into the night, he closed with his next-biggest song, “Love and Happiness.” At end the band vamped over the groove, stretching the number out as Green thanked his crowd again and again, but the effect didn’t work – it was still too soon for him to leave.
With the premium seats going for $70, the evening cost about a dollar per minute after service fees. While there are worse ways to spend a night out, there wasn’t enough of the man whose name was printed on the ticket to justify the price.
Setlist: I Can’t Stop; Let’s Get Married; Lay It Down; Stay With Me (By the Sea); Everything’s Gonna Be Alright; Amazing Grace/Nearer My God To Thee; Let’s Stay Together; Medley: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart / Here I Am (Come and Take Me) / I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) / My Girl / Bring It On Home to Me /(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay / You Are Everything); Tired of Being Alone; I’m Still In Love With You; Simply Beautiful; Love and Happiness