NEW BEDFORD -- Solomon Burke has long been known as the King of Rock 'n' Soul, but when he takes the stage, he's nothing so much as the Minister of Love. He proved that again Saturday night at the Zeiterion Theatre , where he stopped during a brief northeastern run that he has dubbed the "Thank You Americana" tour.
His presence was as large as ever; Burke doesn't just sing, he pours his heart out, he exhorts, he testifies and sermonizes, he articulates the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
And while these days he delivers his message seated front and center on his ever present throne, it's hard to imagine a sedentary man being more active; his arms and hands are constantly in motion, gesticulating and pointing, directing his band, amplifying and reinforcing the words he sings.
It was, in most respects, a typical Solomon Burke performance. Resplendent as ever in a royal-toned, sequined suit, he did a few of his best-known hits and entertained requests from the audience.
He did his customary medley of songs by soul music icons, too, which started with a mesmerizing snippet of "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay" and led to one of Burke's signature moves, the dispensation of roses (eight dozen on Saturday) to his flock -- at least the distaff side of it. "No man is going to get a rose from me! " declared Burke in response to one outstretched arm.
But this tour is also about Burke's latest release, "Nashville," a dream album 40 years in the making, according to him. And that added something new to the vintage Burke, especially a performance of Tom T. Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis." He also used the album to show that he has visited country music throughout his career, via a jaw-dropping medley that culminated in a recitation on love and reconciliation amid the Ray Charles classic "I Can't Stop Loving You." That moment brought home the fact that the King of Rock 'n' Soul has long been a contender for the country-soul throne as well.