Friday, July 04, 2008

King Solomon the Great

Solomon Burke, the King of Rock and Soul, had to be lifted onto and off the stage at The Barbican last night and placed upon his throne. Now even larger than ever, he is a big performer in every sense of the word. But fortunately he has lost none of his soulful vocal ability. Perched on his throne dressed in an outsize silver suit, looking for all the world like Humpty Dumpty, he launched into a string of rather too uptempo versions of hits old and new, including Soul Searching, Cry to Me and Down in the Valley. I feared the worst when he went into Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay and Mustang Sally, but they got the crowd in its feet - with me one of the few exceptions - which was no doubt his aim. And afterwards he settled into a more relaxed and soulful selection, showcasing his still powerful voice.

He was backed by a ten piece band , with two girl back up singers, one of whom - the youngest of his 21 children (one can only sympathise with his wife) - sang a version of I Will Survive. The other, by the way, was one of his 89 grand children. Towards the end of an entertaining, if less than brilliant set, he moved from soul to rock, with lively versions of Johnny B. Goode, Lucille and Tutti Frutti. He invited audience members on stage - my girlfriend went up and attempted to give his huge frame a hug - and handed out roses a la Al Green, before finishing off inevitably with Everybody Needs Somebody. Overall an enjoyable show, even if a rather static one as he didn't move from his throne until being carried off in darkness at the end. But at aged 68 and with a major obesity problem, the chances of seeing this soul legend again must be slim - unlike Solomon himself.


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