King Solomon Burke
i love me some Solomon Burke and Andrea and i got plenty of him on Monday night -- he performed at Duke and it was one of the craziest, strangest shows i've ever seen. it ran the gamut from truly powerful, emotional soul music to cheesy (but often hilarious) showman shtick, and at various points in the concert elements i had taken for artifice became real and vice versa.
burke is a huge man -- 4 bills i would say -- to the point where they wheel him out in darkness, get him (and his giant red sequined suit -- there's a sequin shortage somewhere!) in his throne, where the lights reveal him to be, flanked by two urns packed with hundreds of what i assumed were fake roses (they were real).
one of the first odd things was that before the first song even began he waved over his backup singer and had her adjust a monitor at the front of the stage ("Up!...Now back!"). kind of a jarring way to start the show, pointing out that the singer will be getting his information from a screen at his feet. but the first song was the best one from the recent Nashville album -- "That's How I Got To Memphis" by Tom T Hall. it makes me want to get a Tom T Hall album except Solomon Burke doesn't sing on any of those. His voice sounded amazing and got better as the show went on despite a small patch of hoarseness that Solomon pointed out and said "we're going to bust outta this" and he did. the next song was the Tom Waits number "Always Keep a Diamond In Your Mind" and after that it was off to soulville...
he announced that they were going to do "a little medley" and try to get in all the requests...from who? people on his myspace page? it seems so, though he also seemed to have many personal friends in the audience. anyway he did the bulk of most of the songs he started though he would bring the band down by saying "easy, easy" and then start singing another timeless classic, and there are quite a few! i don't know if he ever had to look at the monitor actually -- i think it was mainly so he'd remember his shout-outs. speaking of which, one great moment was when he called out "where are my Van Dykes?" and a nerdy white guy in his late 40's jumped onstage. Solomon gave him the mic and he told a story about how Solomon came to Baltimore in 1962, but his band didn't show. The Van Dykes (this guy's band) were the openers and agreed to back him up "so i wouldn't lose the $150!" But they knew none of his songs, so he WROTE them a song on the spot called "Stupidity" which apparently the Van Dykes perform to this day, and to which Solomon still remembers all the words because he sang it with the guy...just when the show threatened to get bogged down with an unnecessary tribute to Ben E King or God or someone, some oddball thing like this would happen.
by the end of the show, the stage was full of people dancing to an extended version of Proud Mary, all the (real) roses had been handed out, random audience members had commandeered the mic (at Solomon's command) and a 72-year-old woman was mopping Solomon's bald head with a towel while her husband tried to pull her offstage. those last two people may have been plants actually, since at one point the "husband" took the mic and sang a credible verse of "I Can't Stop Loving You"...we never figured it out...
lots of parallels with the Al Green show of last year -- the backup singer turns out to be his daughter, some churchy-ness, a medley of hits, roses for the ladies, etc...but this was a bit more off the hook. and i'm not even getting into his imploring the ladies to "text me now!", his imploring of everyone to vote for Obama (awesome), or his extemporaneous discussions of his weight ("Durham is my place! i got to lose a few pounds but i'm not going to have the operation! i'm not going to get cut!") and how much he loves biscuits and gravy.