James Brown

Live shot

Phases & Stages
Photo By Gary Miller

James Brown

Stubb's, May 10

At age 73, James Brown is still the star of the James Brown show. Veneration-minded fans would forgive the Godfather if he just came out and waved, ceding all the heavy lifting to his teeming ensemble of musicians, backup singers, and dancers. Yet even as he took a frequent back seat to solos, one never got the impression he wasn't involved in Wednesday night's shoulder-to-shoulder performance. The spectacle began with an extended vamp that gave way to white-tux-clad emcee Danny Ray orating a variation of the legendary Apollo Theatre "Star Time" introduction. Brown then strode onstage to the strains of "Make It Funky" and "Get up Offa That Thing," the latter accentuated by a soaring Leroy Harper sax solo. Leaving the high notes to the ebullient Bittersweets, Brown focused his pipes on essential vocal polyrhythms, though he did reach back to his gospel-infused soul balladry on "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World," which included a moment of silence for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, as well as a defiant solo from New Orleans-based saxophonist Jeff Watkins. Brown's wife, Tomi Rae, sang lead on an unremarkable version of "Hold on, I'm Comin'" before the main attraction delivered a spirited "Living in America" that trumped the recorded version. A marathon one-two of "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Sex Machine" got everyone in the groove before Brown brought the encoreless show in for a landing. A sharp businessman always leaves 'em wanting just a little more.

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