Many years from now, if there’s only one thing the righteous Reverend Al Green is known for, it’ll be that voice. His sensuous falsetto helped define a key ingredient of the ’70s Memphis soul sound (with no small measure of thanks to Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell), and he captured, on classics like “Let’s Stay Together” and “Love and Happiness,” everything about gospel-tinged Southern soul that sends women’s hearts aflutter and knocks grown men to their knees. Put simply, it hurts to listen to Al Green.
Four decades later, he still inflicts a joyful pain. Lay It Down, the 2008 album he coproduced with Questlove and James Poyser of the Roots, surges with all the emotion of his earliest work, and boasts a title track that has become a staple of his live set. Most of all, it has shown that he can connect with a younger audience. Since then, the Fat Possum label has licensed his entire Hi catalog for reissue; Green has headlined Bonnaroo and New Orleans’ Jazz Fest, and has packed ballrooms across the country.
His appearance at the Beacon is a rare treat. Short of the Apollo, it’s the best backdrop in the city for his indomitable stage presence; Green is a seasoned pro at teasing his audience into a give-and-take that sizzles with intimacy and high-flying bursts of inspiration. Offering a raw but stellar contrast is opening act Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires, whose hard-driving, Daptone-fueled soul channels equal parts James Brown revue and inner-city blues. Soul power? It’s a given.—Bill Murphy
Follow Bill Murphy on Twitter: @RoninScribe