James Brown | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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James Brown

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Last time the Godfather of Soul was in town, he displayed his professionalism and dedication by working 90 minutes nonstop for a sparse crowd scattered around Soldier Field. Brown paces himself these days; he dances in spurts, then stands back and lets his supporting cast--a surreal bevy of high-stepping showgirls and his usual tightly wound band--keep the energy rising. He emphasizes melody more than he did during his revolutionary late-60s-early-70s period, when he laid the foundation for hard funk, house, hip hop, and rap by transforming his entire band into a rhythm instrument. But his voice is undiminished and his obsessive fusion of exaltation, perfectionism, and egomania is as spellbinding as ever. The "Please, Please, Please" cape routine has gotten perfunctory, and he no longer contorts himself into paroxysms on "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," but he'll still throw himself to the stage floor to sing prostrate and then rise majestically, legs quaking and feet galvanized with rhythm, only to turn around and do it again and again. He's apparently unwilling to surrender until either he or the audience has been battered into submission. Tonight, 8:30 PM, Star Plaza Theatre, I-65 and U.S. 30, Merrillville, Indiana; 734-7266.

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