Thursday, October 28, 2004

Al Green, Mavis Staples / Beacon Theatre / Oct. 23, 2004

Reviewed by Kathy O'Lay

He had the rocks--diamond-studded cross and Star of David around his neck. He had the dancers--two young guns who came out and boogied along during uptempo songs. He had the ladies reaching to hold his hand and grabbing roses as he tossed them into the audience. Yes, the Reverend Al Green played to an ecstatic house Saturday night at the Beacon. (Ha ha! You thought I was talking about some rapper, weren't you?)

Al has drifted back into secular music again; the ubiquitous "Amazing Grace" was the only gospel tune that evening. Otherwise, he was all good, clean, utterly blessed-out showman, smiling and wiping sweat and swigging from bottles of yellow Gatorade. He'd step a few feet away from the mike, and you could still hear THEE VOICE from the front row to the balcony. The concert was happier than a yellow smiley, more uplifting than any TV sermon, and made you want to move like nothing heard on Clear Channel. Unlike so many soul fans, I don't have a problem with Al's tenure in gospel--whatever makes you happy, dude--but here's hoping he remains among us unwashed heathens for a little while this time.

Opener Mavis Staples covered her solo material and those great Staple Singers hits. She also talked about "our" new CD on Alligator Records and introduced her backing band as "the Staple Swingers." (Sister Yvonne sings backup for Mavis now; Cleotha no longer performs and Pops passed on a few years ago.) Gutsy and unpretentious, Mavis let her voice carry the set--and sometimes that's more than enough.

See above for some photos from the show, taken by Jason Gross.