You can't go to a James Brown concert anymore without feeling cheated, and while that's sad—maybe even unfair—it's also true. The man is a conked-hair repository of history—his splits and screeches stopped riots and fought the commies in Rocky IV; he's Soul Brother No. 1, for chrissake—yet the man is also 72, 40 years removed from The T.A.M.I Show, and to play all his hits the proper way—as endless funk bliss—would require an all-day fest, not the 60 minutes with which the Godfather graced the Grove Sunday night. Oh, the concert will probably be the best thing to happen in Anaheim all year—unless the Angels permanently bench Steve Finley—and Brown was his usual soul Stokowski self: bedecked in a rhinestone-studded emerald-green suit, his gravel-mixer growl still wonderfully raw. His backing band and singers were as regimented as ever, traipsing through keys, tempos and chords at a nod or a finger snap. Hits aplenty: "Doing It to Death," "Living in America" (which featured some hard-bodied dancers writhing around in Old Glory hot pants), "The Popcorn." He even got down on his knees for "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and screamed. And it didn't matter that Brown limited his once-indefatigable feet to some choice shuffles: the capacity crowd roared.
But then, finis. Brown howled and grooved and spun to a 15-minute version of "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" before bidding the crowd good night. We thought it was part of the act—after all, how could Mr. Please Please Please perform without collapsing during "Please Please Please"? Without guiding us through the chitlin circuit of "Night Train"? And no "The Pay-back"? We clapped, stomped, whistled, yelled, begged, pleaded for Brown to return. But he didn't—James Brown didn't give an encore. And a world without a Brown encore is a doomed one indeed.
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