Bobby Womack, The Forum, London
Monday 26 November 2012
"I want to dedicate this song to all the lovers here tonight," explains the 68-year-old singer. This is the sort of ripe line that was perfectly acceptable in the early 1980s.
Less so now. However, if anyone can get away with it, it's soul music's greatest survivor, Bobby Womack, a protégé of Sam Cooke (he ended up marrying Cooke's widow), who is perfectly entitled to cover "A Change Is Gonna Come" tonight, and a man who has survived colon cancer, his child's suicide and drug addiction.
The first half of this old-school soul experience is much more subdued than the saxophone-heavy (it's doubtful the Forum has witnessed so much sax since the mid-1980s), crowd-pleasing ballads later on. The Cleveland soulman sits on a stool dazzling in his bright red suit and cap, strumming in his distinctive way - left hand, upside down - and performs seven songs from his latest, accomplished album, The Bravest Man in the Universe. The record is a stripped-down, low-key affair that reflects on his mortality, his errors, on regret, on forgiveness, the planet, the cosmos, the dawn falling, the end.
His voice is still a thing of wonder, a preacher-style growl, which occasionally soars on "Deep River", "The Bravest Man in the Universe" and standout track "Please Forgive Me". But the new songs are a tad too low-key and noodly live, and they miss the presence of a drummer. However, it's enlivened by a clearly chuffed Damon Albarn (he effectively resurrected Womack's career in 2010 on Gorilla's Plastic Beach), who is on keyboards. The Blur man even pumps the air at one point, somewhat needlessly.
The second half is immediately more vigorous and crowd pleasing, kicking off with "Across 110th Street", which Quentin Tarantino used to such terrific effect on Jackie Brown. The audience join with the "Sha-dah-dah-dah-sha-nah-nah-nahs" on "Harry Hippie" and "That's the Way I Feel about Cha" is a delight.
Some songs linger a little too long, "If You Think You're Lonely Now" feels like an eternity, and some of the material feels dated, naff even, such as "I Wish You Didn't Trust Me So Much" on which a tortured Bobby is pained by the fact he fancies his pal's wife.
In-between songs Womack gets reflective, informing us about how often thinks about his old contemporaries, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and James Brown. "In the old school soul, nobody sounded alike," he maintains. He's right, no one quite sounds like this gravelly voiced force of nature, the last great soul man left (sort of) standing.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
- 5 Narendra Modi: Indian Prime Minister wears suit with pinstripes that spell his name to meet Barack Obama
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after that Wembley Stadium rant
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Taylor Swift banned from Triple J Hottest 100: Fans react to epic #Tay4Hottest100 defeat
Mortdecai becomes Johnny Depp's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Last Tango in Halifax, review: Can we ever really move on from Kate?
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now