I Got The Feelin' - James Brown In The '60s (DVD)
Shout! Factory, 2008
REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/13/2008
“One great rock show can change the entire world,” was the recurring theme of the 2003 comedy School Of Rock. In this decade, that mantra seems almost painfully naïve. When I think of live shows that were assembled to change the world, I think of Al Gore’s concert for the Earth or Live 8. Both were huge spectacles designed to bring attention to a cause, but the effect of each one was pretty much forgotten in a matter of days. The indifference to Live 8 prompted Jarvis Cocker to pen the song “Running The World,” a song that sadly sums up this decade more than any other pop or rock song so far.
While 2008 is certainly going to go down in the “bummer” slot when we rank the “good” years against the “suck” years for this decade, it’s easy to forget that 40 years ago, the United States was in a similar malaise, but to a far worse degree: three assassinations, an election campaign that resulted in the chaotic convention in Chicago, and an unpopular war whose death toll of American forces ran into the hundreds on a weekly basis. If the belief that “One great rock show can change the entire world” sounds naïve in today’s climate, think of how it would sound in 1968.
But that belief proved itself true on April 5, 1968. The show may not have changed the entire world, but it certainly saved a city.
On April 5, 1968, the night after Martin Luther King was assassinated, James Brown was slated to perform at Boston Garden. Police were handling riots in Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, and other cities throughout the United States. The idea of Boston Garden, a venue located in a prime financial district in Boston, hosting a concert that was guaranteed to bring a convergence of young black men and women to one area frightened city leaders to the point where many advocated canceling the performance. Mayor Kevin White was one of the few civic leaders who was in favor of letting James Brown perform, on condition that the show be broadcast on local TV that night in hopes of keeping many people in their homes. Those who purchased tickets beforehand were given refunds and many opted for the refunds out of concern for their general safety and the fact that they could now enjoy a James Brown show in the comfort of their homes.
While James Brown was an obvious champion of civil rights, he was also a businessman. And the loss of revenue (in interviews, one of his financial managers said the show resulted in a $50,000 revenue loss to Brown) caused a behind the scenes struggle between James Brown and Boston community leaders.
This drama is exhaustively documented in Shout!’s I Got The Feelin’: James Brown In The ‘60s. The three-disc DVD set contains the documentary about the concert and the tragic events that preceded the concert. In addition to former mayor Kevin White, members of James Brown’s band and Reverend Al Sharpton also appear.
The second disc contains the legendary performance at the Boston Garden. James Brown’s performance is obviously more subdued than his manic, sweat drenched performance in the bonus DVD, Live At The Apollo ’68. But the performance is no less compelling as he addresses the events that led up to that memorable show. The opening song “That’s Life” takes on a painful resonance after a somewhat lengthy speech and appeal for calm from both Brown and Mayor White.
For any music buff, I Got The Feelin’ can be seen as an essential purchase for those who pride themselves on their live concert collection. Brown’s performance the night of April 5, 1968 literally saved Boston as the city was spared the violence that plagued other cities its size and racial makeup during that tumultuous weekend of mourning, shock, and anger. The additional DVD, taken from one of Brown’s legendary performances at The Apollo Theater solidifies this as a “must have” being that both Live At The Apollo albums James Brown released in the ‘60s rank in the top echelon of greatest concert albums of all time.
The only major flaw of Shout!’s release of the three-disc DVD set is the title. The title leads a buyer to believe he or she is purchasing a DVD boxed set that details James Brown’s life and accomplishments in the 1960s, but all three DVDs zero in on not only the late-era ‘60s, but on only one year: 1968. The early ‘60s, the years that James Brown grew into a figure so monumental that he could singlehandedly prevent a city from descending into a riot, are addressed only in passing. The title could have easily been I Got The Feelin’: James Brown In 1968. Still, a flawed title is no reason to deny yourself the purchase of this DVD that serves as both a great historical document of that chaotic year, but two concerts that capture the sheer intensity of this iconic performer.
© 2008 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Shout! Factory, and is used for informational purposes only.