An Al Green concert is always going to be part sermon and part soul revue and the Royal Albert Hall is the perfect venue for this type of event. A swirl of horns announces the arrival of the Reverend. It’s a great band of tight musicians and it even includes his daughter Deborah Green on backing vocals.
We’re initially treated to tracks from his more recent albums “I can’t stop” and “Lay it down”, the James Poyser and ?uestlove produced throwback to vintage 70’s Al Green and Willie Mitchell. They’re great songs, and the new album has the makings of a classic but you get the feeling people want to sing along to the songs they know.
After a while, the Reverend picks up a bunch of long-stemmed roses and walks back and forth across the front of the stage handing them out to eager ladies in the front row. He’s in his early 60’s now & still looks great in his 3-piece suit, there’s certainly plenty of ladies of all ages who are happy to take the roses he gleefully doles out.
The show really warms up when he sings “Let’s Get Married”, his timeless classic from 1973. The showbiz part of the set has the Reverend telling us about some of his favourite songs, giving him the chance to launch into a medley of “I Can’t Help Myself” & “My girl” (Four Tops), “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding).
Shifting back to the spiritual side, he sings a near acapella version of “Amazing Grace” that the crowd joins in with before the band launches into “Let’s Stay Together”. This gets a huge cheer & prompts the usual round of out of tune singing from the excited crowd. 🙂 People are kept on their feet & dancing by an extremely crowd pleasing string of classics “Take Me to the River”, “Tired of Being Alone”, “I’m Still In Love With You” then “Love and Happiness”. He even throws in my personal favourite “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”. It’s hard to think of it as a song originally written & recorded by the Bee Gees in 1971 when Al Green has so completely made it his own.
He keeps up an amiable banter with the audience all through the show & whether singing his classics or just chatting to us he makes it feel like you’re in a more intimate space than the cathedral-like Royal Albert Hall. I’ve seen him play enough times to know he’s going to say he’s “run out of time” and would like to do more and sure enough that’s exactly what he says 🙂 It’s the only corny part of the entire show & is a small gripe in the midst of so many great songs & tight musicianship.
Whether in spiritual or secular mood, the Rev. Al Green will always have me as a willing member of his congregation. Peace