Over the Weekend: Al Green and The Pointer Sisters at the Greek Theater
The Pointer Sisters--Anita, Ruth, and Ruth's granddaughter Sadako Johnson--played an enthusiastic hour-long opening set, boogieing onstage in stilettos and slinky black dresses (and then red, after a costume change) with a funky five-piece band, and a guest appearance by their sister, and former band member, Bonnie Pointer.
The last time the Sisters were at the Greek, they reminisced, they played with Teddy Pendergrass. That was back in 1981, after Bonnie left the band for a solo career, back when June Pointer was still alive and even before their newest band member, Sadako, was born. They sang Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" and and their hit jam "Slow Hand (No. 2 on the country charts and covered by Conway Twitty, the Sisters proudly reminded their fans). The two sisters and Ruth's granddaughter--the age gap subtle enough that only the shortness of Sadako's red dress measured the decades--moaned and sighed and belted playfully onstage, their combined voices beaming brilliantly through the amphitheater.
The audience whistled and shrieked in the dark in anticipation of the Reverend Al Green's entrance. Adorned in a black suit and metallic red vest, with black and white sneakers, Green gave the audience all the hits they hoped for--"Love and Happiness," "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart," "Come and Take Me"-- frequently tossing red roses into a sea of outstretched arms.
Green's voice was beautiful, and the 13-piece band--including Green's three daughters on backup vocals--was tight and talented, but the tension and tenderness that makes Al Green's music so intimate, the sensuality of his voice and the salaciousness of his sound, wasn't there. And it wasn't because he was busy preaching instead. Besides a version of "Amazing Grace," with the support of the voices of an enthusiastic crowd, Green pretty much kept the bible out of it.
Perhaps it was the fact that this was the band's 34th show on their current tour (he reminded the audience more than once). The crowd sang along to almost every tune, encouraged by Green who held the microphone out frequently, often singing only the first few words of a line before leaving it to his audience to finish. He even slipped in a medley of familiar oldies, leaning on lines from the Temptations and expecting the audience to complete his chorus. "I got sunshine, on a cloudy day/When it's cold outside I got the month of May," Green repeated. "That what we were raised on."
Whether it was the man or the memory didn't matter; the adoring crowd left happy. Even if his phrasing wasn't as lubricious as it was back when Green was posing shirtless for that unforgettable portrait on the image of his "Greatest Hits" album, women raised their arms in the air at the Greek, praising the Reverend, and couples danced happily in the aisles, singing along to the songs that articulated sex and romance for their generation.
When the bright theater lights came on after Green's endlessly popular "Let's Stay Together," the audience accepted the concert's end with love and affection, linking arms, kissing, and singing to themselves as they filed out onto Vermont Avenue under a gibbous moon.