Rev. Al GreenDesert Diamond Casino, Monday, June 13
For those of us who haven't visited a house of worship for a decade or so, Rev. Al Green's performance last week at, of all places, a somewhat makeshift theater in a local casino was the next-best thing. At certain points in the show, you couldn't help feeling that 1,000-plus attendees had paid anywhere from $40 to $60 to attend a revival of sorts. And, while the ticket prices still didn't approach rising annual congregation fees, it was a rather tidy sum for what ended up being a rather brief foray into the intersection where the Lord and sweet, sexy love meet.
Resplendent in a black three-piece suit, matching shades and a toothy grin, soul crooner-cum-preacher Green managed to charm the gathering in all sorts of ways, not so much juggling differing hats as fusing seemingly opposing roles simultaneously. When he announced "everything's gonna be alright; He's coming back," he was met with a chorus of "That's right" from elderly, hat-wearing women and the men who love them. When he waded into the crowd to hand out a seemingly endless supply of red roses--from a table, stage right, that also housed bottles of Gatorade in a rainbow of flavors (if this was church, the thirst-quencher took the place of wine)--the very same women climbed over each other to obtain a flower. Throughout, he played the comedian, cracking surprisingly randy jokes that leaned on double entendres. (After escaping the teeming ladies, he remarked, "I know I was singing my pants down, but I had to get out of there. Some of them wasn't thinking about church!")
Backed by a 13-piece band that included a trio of horn players and three backup singers (and not including a pair of male dancers who changed outfits as often as they busted a move), Green's voice was a slight grittier than those great, old records, and no one complained. Amazingly, he can still hit those piercing high notes that make anyone with a soul weak in the knees.
And, while Green performed a good deal of the hits everyone had paid for, there were many he didn't get around to. Even though he rattled off a litany of songs he intended to perform, he oddly never got around to many, including "Call Me" and "Take Me to the River." Lord knows why, but Green seemed to cut his set short after merely fulfilling his hour-long obligation.
As one of the faithful remarked post-performance as she headed for the doors, "Al has left the building." Indeed.