Stage as Pulpit

Artists as diverse as John Gay and Bono have long used the stage as a pulpit from which to preach a political, religious or social message.

Al Green has come to realize the power of sharing his views on the Holy Ghost in front of a massive stadium audience quite late in the game.

The legendary soul singer turned preacher has no trouble filling his church in Memphis with legitimate worshippers and brown-nosing tourists on Sundays. But now that he’s once again returned his attentions at least part time to secular R&B, the Reverend Green is not holding back on sharing the word of God.

And there must have been a great deal of satisfaction for him in being able to share it with the more than 7,000 people that packed the Filene Center at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts on Friday night, where the performer gave a summer concert before an extremely diverse audience of fans.

As energetic and charismatic a performer as Green is and has always been, I couldn’t help wishing he had toned down the Jesus stuff during his fairly short Wolf Trap set. I guess I wouldn’t have minded as much but for the fact that the singer used snippets from very well known hits like “My Girl” to get people’s attention focused, before abruptly stopping mid-song to ramble on about God.

I ended up wishing that Taj Mahal, the wonderful, understated old bluesman who opened for the much flashier headline act, had been on stage with Green. I think he would have kept the preacher in check. Like the Reverend Green, Taj Mahal also has his roots in gospel music. But he doesn’t let religion rule his music.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditEmail this to someone

Comments

  1. says

    “When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized I was talking to myself.”
    –Peter O’Toole

    And perhaps Dave Barry said it even better:

    “People who want to share their religious views with you, almost never want you to share yours with them.”

    Thanks for the interesting thoughts.

  2. says

    Wait…you go see a musicians known as “Reverend Al” and then complain about his tendency to inject religious discourse into his performance? Would you have gone to a Gallagher show and complained about getting hit with a watermelon?

    Other issues with this blog post:

    1. These two (adjacent) sentences seem to contradict each other: “Al Green has come to realize the power of sharing his views on the Holy Ghost in front of a massive stadium audience quite late in the game. The legendary soul singer turned preacher has no trouble filling his church in Memphis with legitimate worshippers and brown-nosing tourists on Sundays.”

    2. Your disdain for “the Jesus stuff” is palpable. You’re free to believe what you want (this is America, after all), but it undermines the legitimacy of your aesthetic objection to insert your philosophical objection as an unquestioned fact.

    3. It’s “Wolf Trap,” as the site you linked to proclaims in big letters, not “Wolftrap.”

  3. Jennifer says

    Hi Chloe,

    Frequent reader, first time commenter. :)

    I respect your opinion, but Al Green “the soul singer” and “the minister” are one in the same. I’ve had the opportunity to watch him perform in concert and to hear him preach at his church in Memphis. Trust me, both sides of Al Green came out during each performance. I sincerely doubt Taj Mahal’s presence on stage would have dampened the “Jesus stuff”. It seems like you experienced some bait-and-switch. But, that’s been a pretty common practice in his appearance for years now. ::shrug::

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>