R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

The Best Concert I Never Saw


In 2008, I had tickets to see Isaac Hayes' Philadelphia performance, scheduled for August 15. I had been lucky enough to catch the Philly date during his previous tour, so I knew what I was looking forward to, plus there were encouraging reports of Hayes working out new material too. Sadly, Issac Hayes was found dead in his Memphis home that August 10. So I sought comfort, I suspect like many others, in Hayes' discography, including and especially his landmark Live At The Sahara Tahoe (Stax, 1989) concert recording, culled from a November 1972 engagement at the legendary desert resort.

Rolling through a program comprising his uniquely soulful covers of some of the 1970s best songwriters — Burt Bacharach-Hal David, Roberta Flack, Bill Withers, and Carole King — Ike was feeling it: "This house is right on!," he yells. "This is the last show — last night, last show — so we're gonna get down tonight!"

Even though disc one captures extended jams on "Do Your Thang" and his Oscar-winning "Theme From 'Shaft'," disc two portrays Black Moses at his bluesy best. His gospel piano slow rolls "Rock Me Baby" into a seriously "Stormy Monday," all wrapped up in orchestral soul and Hayes' commanding, deep dark chocolate voice. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" stretches time out to where it stops, while "Use Me" simply stretches out on Hayes' Latin piano.

Live At Sahara Tahoe was one of my first favorite albums, and I treasure it to this day.