By Chris M. Junior
The impressive run of crossover hits Al Green had in the first half of the 1970s made him a star and ultimately made him a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Those enduring songs have also enabled the singer and longtime pastor at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, Tennessee, to continue playing shows when he wants and where he wants — and this spring, Green is doing just that on a brief U.S. tour. His May 5 concert at New York’s Radio City Music Call was by no means a complete overview of his highest-charting material: Instead, Green, who turned 73 in April, offered choice hits almost in the same way he distributed red roses to fans in the front row.
Green hit the stage after 9 p.m. and was smiling, waving and clapping throughout, and the audience often responded with enthusiasm to what he had to say during and between songs (“Amen,” “I love ya”) and even the simplest of gestures (such as the removal of his sunglasses during the Kris Kristofferson-penned “For the Good Times”).
By the time he performed “Let’s Stay Together,” which appeared in the middle of his set, Green’s jacket was off and his voice was off and running, reaching the highs and lows that define the song and his vocal range. Green shifted gears with his rendition of The Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” then followed with one of his own compositions, “Here I Am (Come and Take Me).”
In a segment that was entertaining, tantalizing and frustrating at the same time, Green and his band performed bits of The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself,” Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” The Temptations’ “My Girl” and The Stylistics’ “You Are Everything.” It wasn’t quite a medley, as there were brief breaks of silence between each one, and Green showed enough to suggest that full versions were well within reach for him and his band.
After “Tired of Being Alone,” Green paused to say he had “a little difficulty in 2018” but that “the big man brought me out of there.” He offered no specifics and in short order proceeded with “I’m Still in Love With You,” eventually finishing up around 10:30 p.m. with an extended rendition of “Love and Happiness,” during which he invited his three horn players to the front of the stage to play their punchy, rapid-fire runs.
Green’s U.S. tour continues May 7 in Chicago and concludes May 9 in Los Angeles.