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Live review: Al Green @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre

The ladies may have loved him, but an unfocused Al Green delivered a scattershot set at Red Rocks on Wednesday. Photo by John Leyba, denverpost.com/reverb.
The ladies may have loved him, but an unfocused Al Green delivered a scattershot set at Red Rocks on Wednesday. Photo by John Leyba, denverpost.com/reverb.

Al Green might be suffering from road weariness, or burnout, or… let’s be honest: dude’s old. Real old.

So when he hurled the first of many “Hello, Lakewood” at the crowd, essentially snubbing the metropolis known as Denver (!) and Morrison, I knew something about this Red Rocks gig was going to be a little off. The audience, in a pre-“Love & Happiness” anticipatory haze didn’t seem to much mind, but it was all I could do to keep my reverence for the reverend in tact.

View a full photo gallery of this concert.

Green came to the stage Wednesday night several minutes after his backing band led an instrumental version of “Full of Fire.” After doling out a flower shop’s worth of red roses to swooning ladies, Green finally approached the microphone, offering the first “Hello, Lakewood!” (ugh) before finally breaking into “L-O-V-E,” a staple from his 1970s-era catalog.

As the set wore on, Green’s reluctance to actually sing an entire song was grating, laying the foundation for this with the next hit, “I Can’t Get Next To You,” where he sang bits of the chorus, but little else. I began wondering if the altitude was having an effect but that theory was put to bed by Green’s dancing and rose-throwing antics. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s been running these numbers down for 40 years, but the set reminded me too much of a sing-along I didn’t want any part of. The crowd’s Coors Light buzz and money-maker shaking was indication that maybe I was alone in my displeasure.

Later, Green broke into a medley of Motown covers, starting with the Four Tops “I Can’t Help Myself” and the Temptations’ “My Girl,” then tacking on Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” and “Wonderful World” from Sam Cooke. I half expected the lyrics to start scrolling across the JumboTron.

Besides Green’s selective singing, the sound was too low, like the horn and drum sections were purposely toned down in order for Green to be heard more clearly. Trouble is, his singing was so sporadic it would have been redeeming to have more clarity coming from the band. Green’s three daughters provided some spark with their cooing background vocals.

Between segments of more rose flinging, Green ticked off the remaining hits like “Tired of Being Alone” and “Still in Love With You.” The predictability and lack of, frankly, “soul” in this set hit a crescendo with “Love & Happiness.” Green’s set was sandwiched by Buddy Guy and B.B. King. King’s band easily won for tightest musicianship and, despite his periods of intense rambling, stage presence.

View a full photo gallery of this concert.

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Craig Randall is a Boulder-based writer and PR pro with an identity crisis. He credits both “Let Me Love You Down” and “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” as life-changing tracks. Check out his website.

John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular Reverb contributor.