Sunday, May 06, 2012

Al Green on Stage at WinStar in the Chickasaw Nation

Al Green and his wall-of-sound backing group started off the bat with a tight rendition of "Take Me to the River."  The crowd -- coming to WinStar Casino in the Chickasaw Nation, just north of the Red River from places like Dallas-Fort Worth, Louisiana and other parts of Oklahoma -- erupted with delirious affirmation. A rough thunderstorm had passed just prior, delaying the start time by about forty minutes. We'd come out of shelters and back into tightly arranged seats in an auditorium that (The WinStar Global Event Center) holds about 3,000 people. The rest of the show was a hit, too.  

Seeing him perform, it was clear to me that 66-year old Al Green is very much his own man. However, he's also a compendium of other great male soul singers: Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and James Brown, to name a few, as highlighted in a medley of songs including Redding's "Dock of the Bay" and "I've Been Loving You Too Long (I Can't Stop Now)." The way he dramatically kept taking his coat off and putting it back on reminded me of James Brown. And he proffered long-stemmed red roses to members of the audience, a gesture I'd seen Mick Jagger perform at a Philadelphia show quite a few years back. His backing band and vocalists were important ingredients to the show. The Reverend Mr. Al Green introduced the backup singers as his daughters. They have powerful lungs and weirdly, their performance of "Take Me to the River" reminded me of a similar live performance of the song by Talking Heads, complete with similar backing vocals.  

As with Talking Heads, I'd seen Al Green at a show in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a while back (in the 1980s). To compare, his earlier performance was more laid back, and briefer, maybe forty-five minutes, short and sweet. Here, given the distance many had come to hear him, he lengthened the performance time to almost ninety minutes, in part through medley, banter and the inclusion of traditional "sing along" songs. I doubt anyone went away disappointed, especially not after Al and band covered many of his own songs, dynamite material ranging from the aforesaid "Take Me to the River" to "Let's Stay Together."

A little more about WinStar Casino. It's the biggest casino complex I've ever experienced. It's quite a walk from one end to the other -- indeed, those who need assistance can be conveyed by golf cart. Each section is devoted to a geographic theme: Beijing, Paris, Cairo, London, Vienna, and Rome, for example. It feels like being inside a gigantic space ship with all the whistles and bells, a very science fiction milieu. After the concert heading through again on Friday night, the place was bustling with people and energy. Wild and very different from run of the mill living.

Today's Rune: Harvest.       


the walking man said...

Glad you enjoyed your money's worth Erik. What did you pay in the eighties, $10?

Erik Donald France said...

Hey Mark, I'd say this transcended the "cash value." Back in gthe 80s, yeah, about $10-$15 per typical show.

Charles Gramlich said...

Take me to the river is a great tune. When I think of wall of sound I think Slayer, though. :)

Anonymous said...

Al Green is awesome! I've been a fan of his since about '73, when his songs were on the top 40 radio I listened to a lot. Got to see him on the National Mall for free at Clinton's inaugural in '92. Also many others, like Linda Ronstadt and a then-version of Booker T & the MG's, with Steve Cropper on guitar.