SHANGHAI, China – The city: Shanghai. The venue: a drafty People's Liberation Army acrobatics theater. The event: James Brown.
The 72-year-old Godfather of Soul made his mainland China debut Wednesday, belting out classics such as "Get up Offa That Thing" before a capacity crowd.
"We are going to funk you up before we finish," Brown said three songs into his set, which he kicked off with "Make it Funky."
Dressed in a cherry red satin suit, he shimmied, shook and leapt — although not quite as high as he once did.
Behind him, the nine-piece Soul General, complete with gold epaulets on their suits, put on a virtuoso display of rhythm and horns. His quartet of backup singers, the General Sweet, egged on the cheering, clapping crowd that filled the Yunfeng Theater in the heart of Shanghai's once-thriving nightclub district.
Brown is little known in China, and Wednesday's audience was overwhelmingly European, American and Japanese — evidence of Shanghai's increasingly international, cosmopolitan complexion.
The singer has shown no signs of slowing down, with the Shanghai concert coming in the middle of an Asian tour that also included a swing through Australia.
In an interview with The Associated Press last year, Brown shrugged off talk of retirement and said his work is the root of much of today's music.
"Retire for what? What would I do? I made my name as a person that is helping. I'm like Moses in the music business," he said.