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From the Archives: Wattstax, 1972

"Wattstax Concert at Coliseum"

"Wattstax Concert at Coliseum"

The LA Times, August 22, 1972

Despite months of planning and thousands of dollars spent by the sponsoring organizations, Sunday's Wattstax concert before a Coliseum capacity of 85,000 was a treasure trove of highs and lows -- as many of the latter, unfortunately, as the former.

Most of it was brought on by the event's tragic flaw: a poor staging format that at one juncture had no less than 13 minor acts performing in the space of 90 minutes.

The highlight, predictably, was Isaac Hayes, who by now has saturated the local area with his particular brand of high-intensity soul with two sold-out concerts in two months. Sunday, he sang the same songs, played the same basic riffs, and wore the exact cloak and chains as in his recent Hollywood Bowl appearance. After two minutes, it had all the elements of a colossal déjà vu.

Isaac Hayes in concert Isaac Hayes

"Shaft"' in Multiple

The focus of film-makers and recording technicians -- on hand in connection with a motion picture and album to be made from the concert -- was Hayes. He did two takes on "Shaft," ostensibly because of recording difficulties.

The best performances were turned in by Rufus Thomas and the Soul Children, who had the otherwise bored crowd active for a few fleeting moments. The Staple Singers, also effective, opened with a flourish, re-erecting "Heavy Makes You Happy" and "Respect Yourself" one more marvelous time during which the spectators were on their feet and actually dancing.

Of the 13 lesser acts, there were a few very bright spots -- bluesman Little Sonny, whose chromatic harmonica solo on "Wade in the Water" was very tasteful, and Eddie Floyd, who had a big hit for Stax in 1966 with "Knock on Wood."

--Lance A. Williams