Concert Hall, May 25
Whatever health concern caused Bobby Womack to cancel the first of his two concerts certainly did not compromise his voice in the second. He did seem frail, however, stumbling as his minders led him on stage. But once the microphone was in his hand Womack was in his element.
He certainly looked the part. Who but a soul singer can get away with a red leather suit, matching cap and red-rimmed dark-glasses? His 69-year-old voice, meanwhile, if more gravelly than in days past, still packed range and power, and there was a heroic edge to his performing having acknowledged the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
He stormed through Across 110th Street, and on his idiosyncratic version of Nobody Wants you When You’re Down And Out showed that his falsetto was still high and mighty. After the inevitable That’s The Way I Feel About Cha he turned to the moody title track from his recent The Bravest Man In the Universe album, which benefited from his 13-piece live band, rather than the samples, synths and programming of the recorded version. It also provided a context for his four horn players to show their wares.
But by the time he had barrelled through Woman’s Gotta Have It the sameness of many of the tempos and grooves was wearing, leavened when he returned to the days of his old employer, Sam Cooke, for a rousing A Change Is Gonna Come.
After 80 minutes he was led from the stage, reappearing for a fine I Can Understand It, and then he was gone, having never touched the guitar that sat behind him throughout.
It was a good concert rather than a great one and a good band rather than a great. The sound was absurdly loud for the type of music, the saving grace being that Womack’s voice could still be heard above the din. And that may have as much to do with his enduring power as the mixing.