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James Brown live

| January 18, 2006 | 2 Comments

James Brown
House Of Blues, Chicago
Thursday, January 12, 2006

James Brown is 72 (or 77, depending on whom you believe). That’s a fierce contrast to the James Brown of ’72. Back then he was peaking both musically and chemically, shouldering “I’m Black and I’m proud” while transcribing the sounds in his head that were the evolutionary strains of funk. He has gone from “Godfather Of Soul” to plain “grandfather,” a confidential member of the pre-fabricated New York Times obituary club.

It can’t be a happy thing, becoming a part of people’s “gotta see ’em before they go” lists, but Brown’s demeanor throughout his 100-minute performance Thursday said nothing but joy. Of course, dressing like the devil and nagging your band is hardly indicative of such emotion, but you can’t very well open with “Make It Funky” wearing a frown. Brown still has some of his silky moves and — via the ragtag yet unassumingly
proficient Soul General (not to be confused with his nickname) — can get the most out of a band.

He limited surprises, dutifully rolling out “Living In America,” “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” “I Feel Good,” “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” and “Sex Machine” to justify the ticket price. Each of them is so familiar it was difficult to pick out any outstanding strengths in Soul General, Brown has them so tightly wound. The scope of his backup singers was felt in a brief tribute to Ray Charles with “I Got A Woman” and a scalding “Night Time Is The Right Time.” But, aside from a respite so Brown could leave the stage after “Brand New Bag,” Soul General let loose during Sam & Dave’s “Hold On (I’m Comin’),” which briefly led into a playful stab at OutKast’s “I Like The Way You Move.”

No, the James Brown of 2005 can’t belt and scream like he used to, nor does he discriminate as well as he should when it comes to his band, evidenced by terrifying Joplin/Tori Amos gypsy Tomi Rae, who sang backup and Vogue’d like she just learned how. (Thankfully, the two-song showcase handed her last year has been exorcised). To look at him though, his desire’s the same. And at 72 or 77, it’s enough justification for these shows.

Steve Forstneger

Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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Comments (2)

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  1. Jim Schiller says:

    James Brown contribution to music of the 20th century will go down with the like s of W.C. Handy, Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong. His over the top performances led the team in Funk and Soul when the musical arena empty. If he only walked on stage and stood there, he should get a standing ovation

  2. Can you say, “Soul Brother Number One”…

    …Steve Forstneger, thanx for letting us know ol’ Jimmy’s getting old…uh…great review…DOH

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