in performance: darlene love

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darlene love.

While she embraced pop/soul tradition at every turn last night at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort, Darlene Love also flew in the face of the modern pop aesthetic.

In an age singing stardom is regularly dictated by autotuned, fast track success, Love remains a triumphant veteran from another era still in possession of a wondrously clear, powerfully resonant and unfailingly natural voice that has consistently defied age (she turns 73 in July) and the frequency of shifting stylistic climates.

For instance, she opened the two set performance with a trio of early Phil Spector-produced hits – He’s a Rebel, He’s Sure the Boy I Love and (Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry. The youthful inclinations of all three songs, which Love recorded over 50 years ago, might prove an impediment for many adult vocalists. But Love used all three as proud examples of the towering potency her singing still possesses.

There was an instance during The Boy I’m Gonna Marry, in fact, where she sang the word “imagination” like a full force gale. When Love tilted her head back and took a split second pause, you knew the vocal force to come was going to be massive. And it was.

But it was also jubilant. There was a steadfast, gospel-like fervency to much of the show. It was especially prevalent during a trio of hits by Marvin Gaye (one of the pop-soul titans Love once sang back-up for) that roared out of the starting gate with a celebratory Ain’t That Peculiar.

Love carried that joy over to her banter with the audience, as well. She admitted to holding no grudges over the recognition and revenue snuffed out of her early career by the now incarcerated Spector. But she also couldn’t resist getting a jab in. “Look where he is and look where I am.”

Picking a highlight from it all was tough, but a definite contender was the neo-torchy treatment of the Bill Withers hit Lean on Me, which Love redefined for herself in the 2013 Oscar winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. Last night’s version was powerful but poised, which made the tune a reflection of sharing and strength from an ageless pop colossus.



1 Comment

  1.   Shari Walls Said:

    on May 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Congratulations to Ms. Love’s for her success and for finally receiving (albeit, late) the recognition her talent so richly deserves. I grew up listening to many of the people she sang background for; my Dad told me it was Darlene Love who was the powerhouse behind those vocals. It is true that the “…last shall be first.” Stay blessed!

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