Label: Shout Factory
Released: August 5, 2008
There is little doubt that James Brown is an iconic figure in American music. From “Please, Please, Please” to “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud),” Brown has found a way to resonate not only within the Black community, but also in a broader America. As Al Sharpton says in The Night James Brown Saved Boston, the first of three DVDs in this set, “James Brown made mainstream cross over to Black.” Like James Brown, so too did the Civil Rights movement crossover so that today we all reap its benefits.
When you watch The Night James Brown Saved Boston, you will see how one man in one moment made all the difference. There is nothing I can write to prepare you for the power of that moment. The whole documentary, over an hour long, focuses on that moment, but also puts it into the context of the America that led up to it, what happened in other cities that didn’t have such a moment or such a man and what followed. It shows how a man changed a moment, how that moment changed the man and how the man went on to change people.
As if the documentary isn’t enough, the entire concert is included on the Live at the Boston Garden, April 5, 1968 disc. Unlike the documentary, this shows in detail just why James Brown could make a difference: not because he was a profound thinker or a gifted speaker, but because he connected with people on an emotional level. When he asked “Can’t I get respect from my own people?” they listened, because they were his people, not because of race, but because of what they shared in his music.
If you still haven’t had enough of Soul Brother No. 1, Brown’s March 1968 appearance at the Apollo (which also found its way to television as James Brown: Man to Man) is also part of package. While it lacks the historical urgency of the Boston Garden show, it does demonstrate that James Brown didn’t need to be in the midst of one of the 20th Century’s most poignant moments to raise his intensity to a fever pitch. While it doesn’t quite measure up to the Boston Garden show, it’s better recorded and better filmed. Among its best moments, one wasn’t even musical. When James Brown discusses his vision for Black America, it’s clear why he held such sway over the crowd in Boston only a month later and therefore ties the entire package together.
Does anyone question that James Brown was the most intense performer of all-time? If so, they haven’t seen these shows. Call him what you want, Mr. Please Please Please, Soul Brother No. 1, Godfather of Soul, but the bottom line is the man performed with an energy, urgency and intensity that puts everyone else to shame.