There is a time when a man’s heart yearns for a little Soul and R’n’B (old meaning of the term). So last night, it was off to the Royal Albert Hall of all places – the least likely Soul venue in the whole world – for an Al Green concert. Accompanied by UK singer, Gabrielle, as support, Reverend Green was stopping off for two nights in London on his world tour which has been running since April and has yet a few more nights to run.
Gabrielle opened the show with a set that included most of her hits – Dreams, Give Me a Little More Time, Rise, Sunshine and so forth. Her band were allowed half of the stage and the volume was lower than it needed to be and the Albert Hall has a habit of swallowing sound anyway. Her set was perfunctory, pleasant and not very exciting.
Before the show, I tried to count how many times I’ve seen Al Green perform in concert. I’ve seen him in London, New York, and Birmingham and I stopped counting when I got into double figures. So I’m used to all those parts of the show which a master showman like Green manages still to make seem spontaneous but are actually very well-rehearsed and have been going on in this way for many years. Given that factor, this was still full of energy and a good show. Reverend Al included songs from his new album "Lay it Down" (the title track and "Stay With Me") and 1 track from his 2004 set, "I Can’t Stop" (title track). Aside from that it was the hits ("Let’s Stay Together", "Tired of Being Alone", "Love and Happiness", "Let’s Get Married", "Take Me To The River" etc, etc.), some gospel ("Everything is going to be alright", "Amazing Grace", Nearer My God to Thee") and a medley of covers.
Green has a warmth with his audience, he has a vocal range which is still astonishing and a band which is tight but fluid.
Shame about the venue. I would like to see him cut loose with the set list rather than just give the appearance of that. But all-in-all given the longevity and varied nature of his career, I think this guy is amazing.