Ever since she was a young girl, Gladys Knight has sung songs of life and love with elegance and grace. A natural contralto, age hasn’t diminished her vocal powers. In fact, over time, she has grown even more elegant and beautiful. She looked every inch The Empress of Soul, on Friday night, sparkling in a plumb trouser suit.
She had a wonderful, note perfect band to support her, drums, bass, guitar, two keyboards and percussion, plus three outstanding young backing vocalists. The stage was replete with flowers, the lighting tasteful and understated. The audience was fully aware it’s in for a night of romantic nostalgia. After all, when they were hits in the sixties, seventies and eighties, her songs knowingly harked back to better, more mature, respectful times. Her lover caught the Midnight Train To Georgia to go back to a world he once knew. If I Were Your Woman and The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me paint an old-fashioned picture of domestic bliss. The Way We Were speaks for itself. The most dramatic performance was for the definitive Bond theme, Licensed To Kill, a traditional style dating back many decades. Even her more modern picks, such as Sam Smith’s Stay With Me, share the same characteristics of timeless, grand balladeering.
Gladys recounted anecdotes between tunes, little vignettes of the people who wrote these songs of life and love and how she felt about them. Most are gone. She payed tribute to Luther Vandross, Norman Whitfield, Marvin Gaye, James Ingram, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Curtis Mayfield, adding to the sense of time passing by and an era slipping through our fingers. There were few uptempo numbers but the audience was on the edge of its seat, sensitive to the emotion being expressed and mindful that there are unlikely to be many more occasions to enjoy Gladys Knight in her element. The love was mutual.
After a good ninety minutes the concert ended at a very civilised 9:45pm, no encore. It was still light outside.
99% were over fifty years old, dressed in their best frock or a nice jacket, mostly in sensible shoes, although some should be grateful that the notorious downstairs sticky floor was covered in seats.
It made me think..
The days of the Emperors and Empresses of Soul are almost over but, we can hope Gladys will keep going until her body will no longer let her.