Concert review: Bobby Womack, The Civic

By Alan Perrott

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Bobby Womack. Photo / Supplied
Bobby Womack. Photo / Supplied

You've got something special if you can appear on stage in a red leather suit with matching cap and glasses and still come off as charming.

But then Bobby Womack has pretty much seen and done it all in a career spanning over 50 years. As he kept telling us, he'd come a long way for this show, yet it felt like we'd stopped by his home.

There's an ease to his presence that creates an intimacy that's inescapable, which is just as it should be when you're a bona fide legend who can straddle soul and rhythm and blues with ease.

After an oddly clumsy appearance, he kicked straight into Across 110th Street, and while age is clearly wearying him, his spirit was on full beam.

Nothing is hurried. If he felt like sitting, he sat, taking a pull from his water bottle ("It's good for the voice ...") then getting up for a bit of a stroll as he worked up to his next big note. But then he's a storyteller, a master of rhythm and pitch who knows how to work a room.

If the 13-piece band took a couple of tracks to get into their work, their groove was locked tight by the time I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much swung round. Damn that was good, and transcended the polite sound mix and Vegas showband polish, even if the bass still needed more punch.

And it's a tribute to the man that two of the strongest tracks of the night came from his latest album. Bravest Man in the Universe boasts a bed the likes of DJ Shadow would kill for, while the stripped-back Please Forgive My Heart showed the power of restraint and gave the percussionist (my player of the day) a chance to shine. Which is a big call given a set boasting the likes of Woman's Gotta Have It; You're Welcome, Stop On By; and a monster version of I Can Understand It, which again was all about the bloke on the pots and pans.

By that time, we'd been introduced to his daughter (on BVs), saluted the likes of Cooke and Gaye, and the crowd had decided to stay on their feet.

Many thought it was all over, until that odd man started a chant and Womack returned for a couple more. There was some poignancy to the moment, given reports of his health, and everyone stopped where they were to savour every moment the man was willing to share. Excellent.

What: Bobby Womack
Where: The Civic
When: Saturday, May 18

- NZ Herald

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