Thursday, May 12, 2005

still the hardest-working man in show business?

My friend Lindsay and I drove down to Northampton, Mass. on Monday evening for a concert by the legendary Mr. James Brown, a.k.a. Soul Brother Number One, a.k.a. the Godfather of Soul, a.k.a. the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business, a.k.a. the Guy With the Most Semi-Official, Self-Congratulatory Nicknames.

Maybe you didn't know James Brown was still actively touring these days. He is 72, after all, so the hip-shaking and screaming and "unnnh!"s aren't as plentiful or as impressive as they used to be, but that's not to say that his stage show doesn't still kick some serious ass. Lindsay wrote all about it for yesterday's issue of The Dartmouth, but there are few more interesting things about the show that he didn't have the space to mention:

  • Of the two quasi-pornographic stage dancers that were part of the show, one of them surprised pretty much everyone by approaching the mike during one song and rapping for a minute or so in very rapid Spanish.

  • James Brown's head and body are amazingly well-preserved. He looks very fit, and he must have a good makeup person and a good plastic surgeon because his hair is so thick and jet-black and his face is so smooth and his teeth are so white that it's kind of creepy. He didn't even break a sweat until halfway through the show, and given the way he still moves, that's really strange.

  • The band's uniforms are absolutely amazing. They are bright red and look straight out of the early '60s show-biz world that Mr. Brown obviously still holds in the highest regard.

  • Jeff Watkins, one of Mr. Brown's two saxophone players, is one of the ugliest men ever to take the stage, and from his mustache and mullet he is apparently still living in the 1970s as well. (Here's another pic of the guy; he's on the right, apparently posing with a fan.) Even worse, he is apparently a graduate of the Annoying White Man School of Funk Saxophone Performance, which requires its students to take long, squealing solos that push the upper limits of the instrument's intended register.

  • Not surprisingly (given that the audience's median age was probably around 52 and average complexion was Extra-Pasty), Mr. Brown did not play "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)."

  • Mr. Brown did play the excellent song "Mother Popcorn (You Got to Have a Mother For Me)(Part 1)," but lamentably did not play any of his other popcorn-related hit singles, such as "The Popcorn," "Lowdown Popcorn," "Let a Man Come In and Do the Popcorn (Part One)," or my personal favorite, "Let a Man Come In and Do the Popcorn (Part Two)."

But it was still a great show.

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