For just about an hour on Monday night, Al Green entertained a sold out crowd at Denver Botanic Gardens. Green’s voice — the centerpiece of his style that pretty much defines steamy, romantic evenings that lead to late night canoodling — is still there, still strong, still arousing. Squeals from so many in the mesmerized audience proved that fact.
Problem was, there just didn’t seem to be enough of it to last for very long. Green and his gigantic, incredibly soulful 12-piece band (including his two daughters, who sang backup a few times) seemed more concerned with just touching on his giant oeuvre than actually playing the hits. They played a few of them, including a cover of “Pretty Woman,” “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” and “Love and Happiness,” but anchored the show with a medley of just a few measures each from a slew of Motown standards. Getting just a taste of classics like “My Girl,” “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay” and others, punctuated by just a few highlights of his unforgettable voice, was almost a cruel tease.
But when he and his band of funk professionals did perform complete songs, he delivered. Green serenaded the entire audience-in-the-round (with a seemingly endless supply of long stem roses to toss out) but ultimately fell short of really bowling it over. Early in the show, he and the band performed a moving version of “Amazing Grace” that Green dedicated to the families and loved ones of the recent Aurora tragedy. Here, his voice was so heartfelt, it caused many to choke up, holding back until the applause to finally let a few tears flow.
Brief as it was, Green’s performance still placed him within the vaulted pantheon of R&B, and straight into many hearts in the middle of Denver Monday night.