The first thing that must be said about The Final Concert is that it's not. This live album does capture a 1983 Indianapolis show from Marvin Gaye's final tour, but there were shows after this one. The second thing to note is that when the its producers warn on the back of the jewel box that the disc will expose “various source limitations,” they aren't kidding. Initially the disc sounds a little like you're listening to the concert through earmuffs; later it's as though you're catching the show from the beer line.
But the most important thing that needs to be said is that none of this matters -- not the misleading title and not even the subpar sound (though the latter might have mattered very much to Gaye, a recording perfectionist if ever there were one). Granted, like a lot of Eighties soul, the music here sounds synthesized, sometimes even when it's not, which doesn't help the call and response at all, not to mention the groove. But Marvin Gaye (the reason you're interested in this thing in the first place) is marvelous virtually every note of the way. He rings every last sexy drop of sweat from “Let's Get It On”; transforms “Inner City Blues” into a bustling street party; gets an arrangement for “What's Goin' On” that both suggests the original album version and redirects us back to the words (man, the words); and then he breaks out and shouts through the thrilling gospel number “Joy.” Even with the lousy mix, it feels as if the whole building is about to come tumbling down.
“You may be seeing me in concert for the last time,” he tells the crowd at the very end, before predicting that he just might start singing for the Lord full-time. It is still painful to remember that the first part of his prediction was dead on. It is nice to think, though, that the second prediction was accurate too.
Check out this week's featured ad for Bars & Clubs