Wet fuse

Mr. Dynamite in New Bedford
By WILL SPITZ  |  October 27, 2008

The stakes were lower Sunday night in New Bedford than they were back in 1968 when Boston mayor Kevin White brought James Brown to the Garden for a televised concert often credited with keeping the city from going up in flames the night after MLK’s assassination. At 73, Mr. Dynamite isn't quite as explosive, and neither are there any Maceos, Bootsys, or Wesleys in his current band of Soul Generals. But there was something special about seeing a living legend get down in an intimate venue like the 1200-seat Zeiterion Theatre.

After the customary introduction by long-time MC Danny Ray, Brown — dressed in a red sequin-and-fringe tuxedo, hair sheening and unmoving — took over, pointing, screaming, and directing the 12 Generals, including his son Daryl on guitar, with the lightning wrist flicks and snaps you’ve heard about in PBS specials. There were four female back-up singers plus two titillating “dancing stars” (NBA cheerleaders on break? Local strippers?), a singer/hypeman named RJ, and Brown’s wife, a buxom redheaded soul belter named Tomi Rae who looked to be a foot taller and a few decades younger than her husband. Over an hour and a half, they couldn’t have played more than eight songs — too many long instrumental breaks and repeated introductions, not enough Brown — before the Godfather of Soul left the stage, sans collapse. The crowd hadn't had enough yet, chanting “James Brown, James Brown” long after it became clear that there wasn’t going to be an encore.

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