Witnessing a true legend live in concert is getting rarer as we get older. To watch Gladys Knight in concert in Australia hasn’t happened that often.
Gladys Knight earned her title The Empress of Soul during her Motown tenure in the late 60s, early 70s. The audience was here to hear the classics. Gladys delivered, with more.
Memories came flooding back of the early 1970s living in a rambling house with my four siblings. One day my eldest brother brought Gladys home. I’d loved her ever since. Her songs have punctuated our lives. She has framed my stories.
When Gladys Knight stepped out of the darkness into the spotlight the audience erupted with pure adulation, it was like a standing ovation before the show had even started. Gladys wove her magic with her smile and words of gratitude, looking fabulous in her sequins and genuinely flattered by the audience’s welcome. It was showtime.
Gladys wasted no time in launching into the song ‘I’ve Got To Use My Imagination’ with her three backing singers chipping in as she worked the stage with regal presence.
The audience was clearly weighted to the senior demographic and given that Gladys is in fact a Great Grandmother we were in awe of her energy, the clarity of her voice and her perfect timing. She told us throughout the show how grateful she was to have her music and still be able to share it with us decades after launching her career.
She dived straight into ‘Nitty Gritty’ a classic soul song with all the clever rhymes hitting our tapping feet, come on and let the good times roll, let the music sink down into your soul. Gladys had us all in the palm of her hand, telling us about love and togetherness and the fans reciprocating in kind. She sang ‘With Every Beat Of My Heart, her debut single way back in 1961, followed by ‘Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me’.
Gladys spoke about Motown records and Norman Whitfield who co- wrote ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ one of Gladys top selling singles and later recorded by Marvin Gaye. She told her stories with modesty and humour, like a masterclass in R&B history and when she sang the song it really was like time standing still. At one stage during the show she garnered some audience participation and then promptly knighted us as honorary Pips. Only an empress can get away with that.
Gladys Knight packed a lot into a fairly short show, she added a gentle acoustic ballad ‘If I Could’ and covered a song by R&B singer songwriter Major ‘Why I Love You’ demonstrating that her range of vocal gymnastics is unrivalled, with a little help from one of her female backing singers. She spoke about the importance of songs being about truth, how life shouldn’t be wasted and holding those we love dear to our hearts. She lamented that her makeup was disappearing with her tears as she sang, philosophy Gladys Knight style.
She effortlessly sang Carole King’s ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” , the ‘The Way We Were’ and with much pride she belted out her James Bond theme ‘Licence To Kill’ then ‘Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye’, a hint that the show was coming to an end.
The final was left for last. ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ was the encore and didn’t she bring the house down!
Gladys is one classy performer and even though we were all disappointed that the show had to end we streamed out into the night with smiles on our faces and Gladys’s soul philosophy in our hearts.
Gladys Knight remaining dates are:
11 February, Brisbane, QPAC Concert Hall
13 February, Auckland, Civic Theatre
15 February, Christchurch, Town Hall