Marvin Gaye

The Concert Anthology

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Marvin Gaye disliked touring, and truthfully, his sweetly nuanced singing style worked best in a studio setting, where every lift and turn of his phrasing could be clearly heard. The concert stage, by contrast, required large, grand gestures from his singing, and while no one would suggest Gaye was ever anything but a solid performer, the hushed intimacy that made some of his greatest songs so magnificent was often difficult to attain on-stage. Bootlegs and cobbled-together packages of live Gaye shows have been on the market for years, often with the venue mislabeled (if it is listed at all) and overly intrusive crowd noise. This two-disc set features two well-recorded shows, one from 1980 and one from Gaye's final tour in 1983. The 1980 concert is probably from the Montreux stop on his tour of Europe that year, although some details are still sketchy. The singer sounds comfortable and assured here, and his sensual, nearly whispered version of "Come Get to This" is a powerful and seductive evocation of one of Gaye's enduring themes, the redemptive power of spiritual and physical love. The kinetic, horn-driven take on his groove classic "Got to Give It Up," however, manages to sound a good deal less immediate and spontaneous than the studio version, and feels forced. Still, Gaye is in control at this show, and it's obvious that no one in attendance was short-changed. The second disc of this set, drawn from Gaye's final American tour in 1983, finds the star sounding just a little exhausted, with decidedly less spark, which is particularly evident if you play both shows back to back. Gaye does "Come Get to This" in this set as well, and the difference three years makes is apparent. While still a moving performance, the hushed, tense urgency of the 1980 version seems replaced here by a tentative apprehension, as if what Gaye was saying in 1980 (come here, I'll save you) had been flipped to its opposite (come here, save me). The highlight of the 1983 show is the ten-minute "Sexual Healing," one of Marvin Gaye's greatest songs, and a clear statement of his major theme, the use of love, lust, and sex to reach out to God. Within a year Marvin Gaye would be gone, shot to death by his father.

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