Set List Bonus: Get On Up: A James Brown Celebration
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
By Kiana Butler
I'm convinced the spirit of the late James Brown settled over the Hollywood Bowl as the sun set on Aug. 13. From the moment the James Brown Alumni Band, under the direction of GRAMMY winner Christian McBride, hit the first note for Get On Up: A James Brown Celebration, everyone from the bottom of the bowl to the top, including members of Brown's family, began to have a funky good time.
The 13-piece band, featuring some of Brown's original members — Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley, Clyde Stubblefield, and Jabo Starks, among others — kicked off the celebration with the upbeat classic "Gonna Have A Funky Good Time," displaying the showmanship Brown demanded of his players. Wearing sparkly white coats, the Alumni Band didn't deliver any of the show-stopping choreography that was once a JB show staple, but they didn't need to. Two dancers on a platform at the back of the stage had every move covered, while the crowd worked up enough sweat to have made the hardest working man in show business proud.
GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Bettye LaVette knows just how hard Brown used to work. She once toured with the James Brown Revue and was tasked with covering his ballads "Try Me" and "It's A Man's Man's Man's World." LaVette didn't disappoint, especially on the latter song, on which she brought a refined tenderness, with flashes of fiery passion that could only be gained through 68 years of life experience. In all her living, LaVette must have met a messy man or two because she changed the "It's A Man's …" lyrics to "Man is lost because he can't find his own socks," drawing one of the biggest laughs of the night.
Singer/songwriter Aloe Blacc, who stars as a member of Brown's band in the new biopic Get On Up, won my vote for best impersonation of Brown's classic "hey" adlib. During his performance of one of my favorite JB cuts, "The Payback," Blacc nailed the familiar "hey, hey, hey!" line and the crowd rewarded him with a loud applause before commencing to doing the Monkey and other '60s dances to "Super Bad" and "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag."
GRAMMY winner Angélique Kidjo displayed the high energy and unapologetic stage presence of Brown unlike any other artist that night. While performing "Cold Sweat" she took off her elaborate African head wrap and shimmied across the stage. For Kidjo, performing the GRAMMY-winning soul singer's songs was a dream come true. She effortlessly won the crowd over with stories about how she dreamed of being Brown as a child in her West African home of Benin.
"Who the hell is this one?" she recalled asking her brother the first time she heard a JB record. The global reach of Brown's music was evident when Kidjo told the crowd, "We are all Africans tonight" and asked us to recite the chorus of "Say It Loud (I'm Black And I'm Proud)." Only the spirit of the Godfather of Soul could get people of all walks of life to shout the boastful chorus.
Arguably the most anticipated performance of the night was GRAMMY winner D'Angelo's set. Even though he hasn't released an album in 14 years, his voice was just as sharp as it was when he broke through in 1995 with his GRAMMY-nominated debut album Brown Sugar. Nobody hollered, literally, over a mic like Brown, but several times D'Angelo pulled off an impressive Brown-esque holler while performing "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I'll Get It Myself)" and "Maybe The Last Time."
One of my favorite moments came when D'Angelo invited to the stage actor Chadwick Boseman, who delivers a spot-on portrayal of Brown in Get On Up, to perform "Soul Power." While D'Angelo hit every note, Boseman imitated Brown's legendary shuffle much to the delight of all.
As the night's previous performers joined them onstage to close out "Soul Power" everyone followed the song's instructions to "get down, down, down" and was rightfully full of soul.