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James Brown (James Joseph Brown, Jr.): Live at the Boston Garden: 1968 [Video]

Album Notes

Live at the Boston Garden: 1968 is a most extraordinary DVD -- indeed, unique is the only way to describe its contents, and that only partly because of the exceptional performance by James Brown. Preserved from a black-and-white videotape made at the show on April 5, 1968, the performance took place 24 hours after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been murdered; evidently the city had considered asking that performance be canceled, until it was pointed out that this might create even more risk of violence. The show went on, and was videotaped for broadcast, and here it is, courtesy of some anonymous bootlegger or other. Anyone who remembers Brown's performance from That Was Rock will love this disc -- he's at least twice as animated, and performs for well over an hour. The cameras move around across a lot of angles, and there are shots of the band (especially the saxmen) and the backup dancers, but mostly you get Brown somewhere in the shot, center stage, in the foreground, the background, somewhere. Marva Whitney does a handful of songs, and Bobby Byrd gets one song, but otherwise the show is Brown's and in some unexpected ways. At about 105 minutes in, the dozens of audience members suddenly charge the stage, and a phalanx of police suddenly come on-stage, ready to close the show and clear the hall. Brown appeals for order and starts lecturing the crowd, reminding them that the eyes of the world are on all of them and the people charging the stage are giving all of them a bad name. After a stand-off in which the police are ready to move, Brown calms the cops and the crowd, the stage is cleared, and he resumes the performance. Getting back to the music, each song -- and all of the best ones are here -- gets a chapter marker, and the disc opens on a pretty simple menu. The sound is a bit compressed but clean. ~ Bruce Eder


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