-Smooth Al Green graced the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles once more Saturday night, delivering a too-short performance that nonetheless reached moments of transcendence.We weren't in our seat for one minute the whole evening. Well okay, maybe for one minute. The rest of the time was spent dancing to the tunes of I'm So In Love With You, Love and Happiness, and Let's Stay Together. Just to name a few hits.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s best records, from the early ’70s, are soul-fueled, slow-burning love songs that mix in gospel and rhythm ’n’ blues. Great soul music blends God and the devil, the spirit and the flesh, aspirations and impulses that join together into an intoxicating spectacle of passion, all focused front-and-center on the man with the microphone, who in turn becomes part preacher and part instigator.
When that man is the Reverend Green, whose natural, casual and seemingly effortless voice seems to penetrate deep into one’s soul, the effect can be magical. And it was Saturday night – in parts.He also gave credit to artists like Marvin Gay, Roy Orbison and The Four Tops with snippits of their hits.
“Amazing Grace,” the fourth song of the night, found Green performing with close accompaniment from daughters Rubi, Kora and Alva – a great sight that broke into bouts of pure joy. The next song, too — his rendition of the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” — was tremendous, leaving plenty of room for Green’s subtle vocal charm. He seemed utterly at ease throughout it, and his backing band also seemed to enjoy the moment, really coming alive during the blissfully tight funk of “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” from 1973’s sublime Call Me, one of the best soul albums of all-time.
But those three songs turned out to be the show’s high point. Green made reference to several other hits from the past, quoting snatches of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and sampling snippets of the Temptations’ “My Girl” and the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch).” While a singer as talented as Green can make coasting sound better than it should, these parts, as well as his earlier take on Roy Orbison’s “Oh! Pretty Woman,” were uninspired.Did I say The Pointer Sisters were the opening act and was just as awesome. The Greek Theater was full of energy as they sang their hits I'm So Excited, Jump, Neutron Dance.
The Pointer Sisters, on the other hand, never let their energy wane as they showed off their deep repertoire of dance hits in a lively opening set, with highlights including “Automatic,” “Slow Hand” and “I’m So Excited.” Unfazed by a somewhat staid audience, these sultry ladies (with Sadako Johnson replacing the late June Pointer) barreled through their set with power and grace.