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The 40 greatest concerts in Boston history: 1

James Brown | Boston Garden | April 5, 1968
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  October 26, 2006


HISTORIC: James Brown saves Boston from the riots
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, America’s greatest civil-rights leader, was assassinated in Memphis. Violence erupted in major cities across the county as African-Americans, who had already endured so much, reacted to the loss of a leader who was both spiritual and practical. Mayor Kevin White panicked. Although Boston wasn’t literally burning, like Detroit or Los Angeles, it was approaching an ignition point. He considered canceling all public events, including a James Brown concert at the Garden. Fortunately, his advisers suggested that stopping the show would be viewed as yet another stifling of black expression and could easily start the very rioting they’d hoped to avoid. The mayor made history by meeting with Brown and asking if they could work together to keep the peace. He was less lucky with the local affiliates of the three major TV networks, who all declined to broadcast the show, according to music historian Dick Waterman. Instead, the PBS station, WGBH, stepped in so Brown’s music could reach beyond the Garden’s 14,000 seats and into the living rooms of everyone in Greater Boston. The show was an absolute tour de force. Brown soothed his mourning audience by dedicating the concert to Dr. King and delivering a million-watt performance packed with greats: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “Cold Sweat,” “That’s Life,” “Try Me,” “Please, Please, Please,” and more. He invited White to speak to the crowd and the cameras. And when police reacted to fans who rushed the stage at one point, Brown assured them he could handle things himself, pleading, successfully, for everyone to return to their seats. On this night, music literally helped determine the course of Boston’s history.
40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26
25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11
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  Topics: Live Reviews , James Brown , Kevin White , Martin Luther King Jr. ,  More more >
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The 40 greatest concerts in Boston history: 1
Overall, a great list. Impossible to do and make everyone happy. Glad to see the old Stones, Zeppelin and Who shows, as well as J. Geils and Aerosmith represented. I lived in Boston from 81 to 85. From that era, I would have added shows where the Jon Butcher Axis and New Man shared the bill. Think that happened at Jonathan Swift's, the Channel and Bunratty's. Neither band made it big, but it's not because they didn't deserve to. Also, that was the era that Joe Perry wasn't in Aerosmith, so he was playing locally all the time. There was a show, I want to say 1983, at Uncle Sam's that was historic.
By Adam Taylor on 10/26/2006 at 5:56:59
The 40 greatest concerts in Boston history: 1
I saw the WGBH telecast of James Brown at Boston Garden the day after Martin Luther King's assassination. It was obviously the biggest and most visible concert affected by that terrible event, but it wasn't the greatest one. On the very day of the killing, The Muddy Waters Blues Band played The Boston Tea Party, with Peter Wolf's first group The Hallucinations as the opening act. I've seen many, many great blues shows over the years, but nothing ever touched the raw emotion on stage that night, only hours after the shooting. Maybe it's not even appropriate to call it a concert, because the band wasn't playing for the audience, but for their own sorrow. And while racial tension flared in the streets of Boston, inside the Tea Party a racially-mixed crowd peacefully shared their profound grief. The experience was so intimate it was as though we were guests in Muddy's home for the funeral of a beloved family member.
By SteveN on 10/28/2006 at 12:47:03
The 40 greatest concerts in Boston history: 1
I can't believe you didn't mention the English Beat concert at the Channel. I think it was in the summer of 1982 and it was absolutely the best concert I've ever seen in Boston. This was a huge oversight.
By margalit on 12/28/2006 at 1:19:19

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