April 6, 1968 – just over twenty-four hours after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, James Brown took the stage at the Boston Gardens for a concert that was televised live – and simulcast on radio – and what riots had been on the brink of turning the city into a conflagration, simply went away.
Shout Factory’s three DVD set I Got the Feelin’ – James Brown in the ‘60s features The Night James Brown Saved Boston, a look back at what might just be the single most important music concert in history. Combining documentary footage of the riots that followed King’s assassination with clips from news reports of his death and interviews with members of Brown’s band, his manager, the former Mayor of Boston [who almost cancelled the concert], the Reverend Al Sharpton and more, the documentary that takes up disc one, paints a picture of an extraordinary evening that left Boston relatively unscathed while every other major city in America burned.
The seventy-five minute documentary includes television footage from Brown’s concert and shows his mastery of his music and his uncanny ability to read an audience. In one sequence, fans climb up on stage after Brown has waved the police back. Instead of showing fear, Brown shames them into leaving the stage – and carries on. The set’s first DVD also includes well over an hour of extra interview footage that adds to our understanding of the magnitude of what Brown did that night.
James Brown Live at the Apollo ’68 features performances culled from Brown’s performances at the legendary Apollo Theater and his performance of Out of sight from the acclaimed concert film, The T.A.M.I. show. One again, we can see the power that Brown had to command an audience’s attention – and devotion.
The final disc of the set is James Brown Live at the Boston Garden – April 5, 1968. Yup, it’s the concert that Brown gave the night after the Martin Luther King assassination. The DVD is a combination of the televised show plus additional audio from the FM radio simulcast. Despite the fact that the public television station remote crew had never recorded anything like the Brown concert [they had been doing classical concerts, primarily], the WGBH crew manages to capture the raw energy and power of Brown’s performance.
Besides the monumental importance of the Boston concert in terms of helping keep the city’s black population from falling into rioting, this disc shows that – even with an inexperienced crew televising the event – Brown was a masterful entertainer. His band is as tight as a band can be and yet swings like mad. Brown’s vocals pivot from a hushed moan to a full on wail in the turn of a phrase. The music is all. Brown uses his music to project hope and life into an arena – and city – where it had been thought lost only the night before. It’s a masterful performance – perhaps the best single performance of Brown’s long and illustrious career.
The set also includes a twenty-four page booklet that details the life of James Brown.
Grade: I Got the Feelin’ – James Brown in the ‘60s – A+
Grade: Features: B+
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Final Grade: A