August 31, 2003
Chastain Park Amphitheatre - Atlanta


James Brown Band:

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James Brown:

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   James Brown proves that getting up in years doesn’t prevent getting down onstage. The Godfather of Soul lived up to every expectation of mine, which was a relief considering I’ve been let down by so many “veteran” acts I’ve seen lately. “Make It Funky” was the opening song and the recipe for the night. James did one-legged shimmies across the stage that seemed to defy gravity while belting out shrieks and screams that shouldn’t have been possible from a human. “Get Up Offa That Thing” had the diverse crowd doing just that. Everyone was dancing and cheering. “Mother Popcorn” and “Funky Good Time” just kept it pumping. After about a half-hour or so of the real thing, a short set by a backup singer was kind of sad and irritating. The Janis Joplin and Etta James covers might be nice for a Vegas showroom, but we Georgians wanted nothing more than James. At least it gave us a few minutes to sit down and rest before the final frenzy went down.

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When Brown took back the mic, it was with the sputtering beat of “I Got The Feelin’.” It wasn’t long before we were all back on our feet. “Living In America” fared much better live than the ‘80s production single and it was sandwiched in between heartfelt versions of “Georgia On My Mind” and “God Bless America.” A representative from the mayor’s office presented James with a plaque and thanks from the State of Georgia. This was, after all, a rare concert actually sponsored by the City Of Atlanta.

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“It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” was the highlight for me. Brown nailed it tonight. At one point, dropping to his knees with a chill inducing scream. Hearing this live is one of those moments that can’t help but be etched and frozen in memory. “Please, Please, Please” led into an extra fast “I Feel Good” and then to “Sex Machine.” With two bass players playing an octave apart, two drummers (one just for the accents) and a whole crowd screaming “Get Up!” again and again, this is what it’s all about. For a moment, the tables at Chastain all disappeared and gave way to dancers.

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Just when it had almost reached its moment of perfection, the unthinkable happened. Everyone’s dancing, the lights are spinning, the band is rocking and James is smiling when all of the power and lights shut off unceremoniously. I looked at my watch. We’d reached the 11 o’clock curfew. There was no warning and no “five more minutes.” The power just stopped. The drummers, on the other hand, didn’t stop. The crowd took over, chanting “James Brown, James Brown, James Brown” to the beat. The performer looked understandably confused for a second. Then he grabbed the arms of the nearest two band mates, bowed, smiled and walked off waving. Before he was even off the stage, the house lights came up. The crowd booed and hissed at the disrespectful ending to a great night. We never even got to hear “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.” You’d think the curfew limits imposed on Chastain by the City Of Atlanta could be extended enough to let James Brown finish a song at a city sponsored show which was supposedly to honor Brown for all he’s contributed to Georgia and the world. Oh well, what are you going to do?

Chris McKay / concertshots.com

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