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Posted on Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 8:12 a.m.

Al Green holds a satisfying soul clinic at Hill Auditorium

By Will Stewart

Two-thirds of the way through his command performance at Hill Auditorium on Saturday, Al Green brought the band down low and asked the question he’d already answered.

“People are wanting to know, ‘Does Al still got it?” Green said, answering himself with a falsetto wail that was emblematic of his compact, 70-minute show: a little over the top, perfectly executed and maybe just a little bit cheesy. But only in a good way.

Any questions about whether Green, at 66, still has it, were dispelled from the start. Blending impeccable stagecraft with a voice that can still do amazing things, Green was in control throughout the performance, blending his iconic 1970s hits, covers, medleys and a healthy dose of gospel into his short set.

Green still has it, and he left it all on stage on Saturday.

Ever the showman, Green incorporated every trick in the book, handing out dozens of roses, shedding his dinner jacked and bowtie … even flicking brow sweat on the front rows.

But it was his voice, ranging from a gritty howl to a soaring falsetto, that sold the songs, many of which, let’s be honest, don’t have a lot to them. But Green is more than a technician; he’s a stylist and, on Saturday, he found ways to infuse unexpected intervals and changes into tired material like Roy Orbison’s “”Oh, Pretty Woman” and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.”

Green who for decades ignored his R&B roots in favor of gospel music an preaching at his own church in Memphis, Tenn., was arguably at his best when he leavened his heartily steamily secular material with doses of sacred music.

His reinvention of “Amazing Grace” was a stunner, as he painted around the melody, often only singing every third or fourth word, while his two daughters stacked harmonies. It was a remarkable performance and the clear highlight of Saturday’s show.

Also notable was Green’s band, which successfully walked the tightrope between oldies-act karaoke and improvisation. Arrangements were open enough that Green could call for impromptu solos or seize his own ad-libbed moments. The result was a looseness often lost in these kinds of shows.

As such, a medly that included off-the-cuff runs through the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself” and The Temptations’ “My Girl” was a nice nod to the Motown sound’s impact on Green’s career.

Of course, it was over nearly as soon as it began. But it didn’t matter. By then we’d heard all the hits—“Let’s Stay Together,” “Love and Happiness” “I’m Still In Love With You”—as well as a handful of surprises, and there wasn’t much more to ask for.

But the message was clear: Al Green definitely still has it.


Ralph P

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 6 p.m.

I agree totally with Deana and Mr. WOW! Disappointing, not nearly strong enough. Rip-off, accurate but not the only bad part. I struggle to understand how 2 posters both sitting in the Mez had such differing opinions on the sound quality. While the music sounded good, the vocals were completely obliterated, and the vocals send the message of the song, especially with Mr. Green's most popular songs. Bad and worse.... And what the heck was in the bag??????


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

I guess I'm glad that I didn't go to the concert after all. Interesting review in the New York Times from a show of his in 2001. Sound familiar?

Michigan Man

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Sounds like The Rev. Al Green needs to preach another sermon (song) and make his sermons last a little longer for the faithful?


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

I was hoping for that sweet sounding voice from my high school memories of the 70's. All I heard at this concert was a lot of screaming, and noise from the band meant to drowned out the fact that Al no longer, "has it". Very disappointing! I wondered about the "bag" too.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

All I can say is WOW. WOW - 70 minutes? That's generous. I consider the show also shortened by the amount of time wasted on COVERS of other artists. Do you not have enough songs of your own, Al? Really, Al? WOW. WOW - the sound was the worst I've ever experienced at a "professional" music event. The worst. WOW. WOW - the venue didn't even sell bottled water? Really? At the very least, wake up the management to the lost profit opportunity! Is the Summer Festival "endowment" that strong? If it is, how about giving me a bottle of water? WOW. WOW - $75/seat (I had the "privilege" of purchasing FOUR tickets). That comes to just under $5/minute. WOW. I'm now thinking of all the virtual music I could have downloaded in less than 70 minutes had I just stayed home. Where I wouldn't have gone thirsty and damaged my hearing. WOW. WOW - did he have a medical emergency requiring him to leave early? At his age and tonnage, we're not ruling this out. And how about the band coming back on stage to tease the idea of an encore only to have them take video on their PDAs of all the SUCKERS who dropped that kind of dough for horrible sound, other people's songs and no concessions? WOW. WOW - and what's up with the duffle bag that got placed in front of Al right before he came on stage and the gooney guy who fetched it when it was time for Al to leave? What's in the bag Al? C'mon, tell us what's in the bag!? WOW. WOW - it was a checked box on the bucket list! One that won't get checked again. I will be proposing a 50% refund to the festival management. Those who feel the same (or better...the shame) about their experience should please join me! WOW. WOW - to sum it up, I feel like I got mugged by a guy in a white dinner jacket with a voice that still has it, but his sense of VALUE is lost. I think he played a longer set on SOUL TRAIN in 1972 (and didn't need COVERS to fill out the time). WOW. Just WOW.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

I couldn't even say "Wow"... I share your review. I really felt as though they didn't want to be there with us.


Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

Had great seats, third row center in the mezzanine...the worst imaginable sound! Entire concert was totally ruined. Complained to house manager who squarely placed responsibility on AL Green's guys...did they even do a sound check? The MOST EXPENSIVE ticket of the entire Summer Festival and it was a terrible experience. Had I known it would become a "sing a long", I would have stayed home. Total waste of $150.00 for two tickets!

Deana Pfeiffer

Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Al may still have it, but those of us in the balcony couldn't hear it.... it was an awful show and our whole party was disappointed.

Ed Kimball

Sat, Jun 23, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

I didn't find it any better on the main floor. We left after 40 minutes because the was so loud that we couldn't hear Green and our ears hurt!


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

I couldn't hear his voice in the balcony either... only a very, very loud band. And I thought it so strange how he just left at the end. No thanks, no goodbye, he just walked off the stage and the audience was left to believe, by a few band members, that if we cheered loud enough he'd do an encore. Didn't happen. I didn't feel a good vibe from the band and I wonder why he just walked away.


Sun, Jun 17, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

I couldn't disagree more strongly. The mix was great at the mezzanine level, and it was a fantastic show, though far shorter than I would have liked.