Saturday night at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, Al Green took a capacity crowd to church 12 hours earlier than usual. "God gave me the ministry of love and happiness," the veteran Memphis soul man announced before launching into another of his velvet-brimstone sermons. The grown-and-sexy audience came prepared to worship; one woman sang along at top volume for his entire 90-minute set.
Fronting a 12-piece band that included a back-up vocalist doubling as what might be best described as an interpretive-calypso dancer, Green complemented well-worn hits from throughout his deep discography with gospel material and covers of old soul and Motown gems, as well as a pair of tunes from this year's terrific Lay It Down, on which Green teams up with a neo-soul dream team headed by ?uestlove of the Roots.
He introduced the album's title track by issuing a challenge: "I wanna see if the band can play it like it sound on the record," he said. It didn't quite, thanks to a stage-slackened groove and an unfortunate overdose of Miami Vice sax. But Green made up for what he lacked in studio-side precision with his infectious enthusiasm and his still-sparkling vocals, which transformed from guttural growl into weightless falsetto with no discernible effort.
"There some people here wondering if the Reverend still got it," Green acknowledged at one point. The Reverend's response, delivered in the form of "I'm Still in Love with You," left no doubt that he most certainly does.
"I Can't Stop"
"Let's Get Married"
"Lay It Down"
"Stay with Me (By the Sea)"
"Everything's Gonna Be Alright"
"Amazing Grace"/"Nearer, My God, to Thee"
"Let's Stay Together"
"How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"
"Here I Am (Come and Take Me)"
"I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)"/"My Girl"/"Bring It on Home to Me"/"Wonderful World"/"You Are Everything"
"Tired of Being Alone"
"I'm Still in Love with You"
"Love and Happiness"