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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisSome soul singers loose luster with age and others seem to get better with time. Gladys Knight didn't just sustain the gusto she originally had, but seemed to expand upon an already rivalable range, in turn, cementing her legendary status. These days the 64-year-old may be Pips-less, though the one time Motown hit maker demonstrated enough star power and confidence to carry a slightly skimpy but still satisfying set on her own. In fact, the show was full of flash and could've fit right into Las Vegas, also matching the vibe of The Venue at Horseshoe Casino. The versatile hall transformed from the standing room floor club feel of recent shows by Seal and Staind to a full theatre setting, which the headliner worked from top to bottom with true veteran status.
The evening kicked off on a festive note thanks to the vibrant soul shimmers of "The Nitty Gritty" merged with The Jacksons' "Shake Your Body (Down To the Ground)." Other early tunes included the booming "Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me," the "Claudine" soundtrack staple "On & On" and an expressive cover of Lee Ann Womack's country cut "I Hope You Dance," demonstrating her ability to intermix tender balladry with upbeat R&B, soaring with equal strength in either format.
A six-piece band and five background singers helped flesh out additional remakes of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and The Spinners' "Love Don't Love Nobody," though Knight again translated them to her impeccable style and recast them as if they were originals. She gained additional steam with the immortal anthems "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)," "Hero (Wind Beneath My Wings)" and "Midnight Train to Georgia," all of which have been set list staples for decades, but were presented somewhere between the freshness of the first time and the fervency of a farewell performance.
Yet the encore lacking 75-minute evening hinged on "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," which may have been cut by formidable favorites like Marvin Gaye and Creedence Clearwater Revival, but in this instance, it definitively belonged to Knight. She could've certainly played a little longer and swapped out a couple covers (many more permeated the performance) for literally five decades of Pips and solo material, but at least many moments found this veteran diva in durable form.
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