Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Reverent Evening With Al Green At Ravinia -- Concert Review

Concert Review

Al Green
with the Chicago Children's Choir
Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL
June 15, 2012

On a picture perfect evening at Ravinia, for less money than some dupes paid to see That's My Boy--the latest Adam Sandler debacle--with a couple refreshments, I heard (and occasionally saw, as I was on the lawn) one of the most legendary living soul singers sing some of the best songs ever written.

It was my first time "seeing" the Reverend Al Green, and although it will doubtfully wind up being among the very best shows I see in 2012, I couldn't have wanted it to be much better.

Although an encore of "Take Me to the River" would've been nice.

But following an enjoyable performance by the Chicago Children's Choir--including a Michael Jackson medley and "Seasons of Love" from Rent--Al Green delivered an engaging 75-minute showcase of his own hits ("Let's Stay Together," "Tired of Being Alone," "I'm Still In Love With You," "Love and Happiness" and others) as well as (often quick) takes on other classics such as "Oh Pretty Woman," "I Can't Help Myself," "My Girl," "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" and "What A Wonderful World It Could Be."

Although at 66, Al no longer looks as lithe as he did on the cover of his 1975 Greatest Hits album--ranked #52 on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All-Time" and from which his cover of the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" was another Ravinia highlight--Green's voice is still an amazing instrument.

Though my glimpses of stage were fleeting, Green--constantly clutching and/or handing out roses--seems to still very much love what he does. And as evidenced by their grooving together and singing along, those within the large, quite racially-mixed crowd apparently felt likewise.

Along with a solid band, Green was well-augmented by a choir (I assume it was, at least in part, the same Chicago Children's Choir that opened the show), most noticeably on "Let's Stay Together."

Not surprisingly, given how relatively little I know of his vast output, Al sang a few songs I didn't recognize, but pretty much everything sounded good. And while "Take Me to the River" would seemingly have made an ideal encore and show closer, in terms of its quality and sensibility how can I argue with "Love and Happiness" wrapping up a great, and deservedly reverent, night out on Ravinia's green.


Anonymous said...

While we hold Al in high regard, he fell short in actually singing his songs. He left most of the effort to the back up singers, the crowd, and the band. Seemed like he was pacing himself to finish. It would have been better to have him actually sing his song fully than fill 1/2 the show with cover tunes. Saw him before and he was awesome...not this time sadly.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment that Al Green fell short, flat or any other adjective that describes his singing as just plain awful. His fans came to hear him sing and he did not sing. He sang parts of his songs, humming, letting his background pick up his slack. It was awful. His performance could give Ravinia a bad name.

Anonymous said...

I must have been at a different concert than the reviewer. Incredibly disappointing - maybe I was spoiled by Earth Wind and Fire the weekend before, which was probably the best time I have ever had at Ravinia. Glad I didn't pop for pavilion seats.

Seth Arkin said...

I feel bad that the three commenters didn't enjoy the show as much as I did. Being on the lawn at Ravinia didn't allow me to intently focus on the music, but I liked what I heard and the vibe was great.

I certainly respect differing opinions, and have often had them, but people on the shuttle bus after the show also seemed to have enjoyed it to the extent I did.

About the cover songs, in looking at Al's albums, it seems he routinely included some, including "Oh Pretty Woman" and "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart," which he sang at Ravinia.