The Final Concert is a slightly misleading title for this live CD, which doesn't contain Marvin Gaye's last concert ever but was recorded during the late soul singer's final tour. Recorded at an Indianapolis show in 1983 (the year before Gaye's death) but unreleased until May 2000, The Final Concert won't impress audiophiles; the sound quality isn't bad, but it isn't fantastic either. Nonetheless, this is a CD that serious Gaye fans will find valuable. Despite the fact that Gaye was fighting a losing battle with his demons in 1983 -- and despite the fact that he truly hated touring at that point -- the singer puts a lot of heart and passion into most of these performances. When Gaye speaks to the audience between songs, one can hear the sadness and defeat in his voice. But when he tears into familiar hits like "Let's Get It On," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," and "Distant Lover," Gaye manages to rise above his demons long enough to put on a meaningful show. His performance of "Sexual Healing," however, ends up being quite sad and tragic; when the singer, sounding stoned, loudly proclaims, "I still love Jesus," it's as though he's apologizing to God (and perhaps to his minister father) for his cocaine use and his self-destructive ways. But while The Final Concert isn't the perfect document of Gaye on stage, its plusses by far outweigh its minuses. This CD, although not recommended to casual listeners, is one that Gaye's hardcore fans will be glad to acquire -- imperfections and all.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
feat: Paulette McWilliams