By Jenny Peters
What happens when an iconic soul singer comes to the Hollywood Bowl? The crowd forms, that’s what!
The crowd was so huge on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, to see Gladys Knight strut her stuff at that iconic outdoor venue that the usual traffic snarl on Highland Avenue took on epic proportions, leading (in our case) to a last-minute sprint to our seats.
And while we missed a little of the Tower of Power performance that started the stellar evening, that 10-piece band founded by Emilio Castillo back in 1968 proved they are as relevant as ever, putting on a terrific set imbued with their signature horns section.
Newly added lead singer Marcus Scott wowed the audience with his renditions of classic Tower of Power tunes including “So Very Hard to Go,” “What Is Hip?” and “You’re Still a Young Man,” done as the encore with Scott giving a nod to “the Friends of Bill W.” as he began the song.
Then it was time for the headliner, as Gladys Knight and her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight (one of the original Pips) and their 11-piece band hit the stage, all dressed in white for the hot summer night – all except Knight herself, who dazzled in a bright-red lace pantsuit.
And the 72-year-old Knight went on to dazzle with the strength and beauty of her voice, going through a slew of her hits that date from 1966, when she and her band signed with Motown Records.
She did everything, starting the show with “Love Overboard” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” and moving on to “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” “If I Were Your Woman” and, of course, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the song that Knight had a huge hit with in 1967, then was overshadowed by Marvin Gaye’s version a year later.
But that doesn’t bother Knight one bit, as she explained to the adoring crowd. “Our big brother Marvin came along and stole that song the next year,” she said, “but we weren’t mad, no, at Motown we all worked together!”
Knight capped off the show covering songs from Teddy Pendergrass and The Spinners, and doing a fine medley of Billie Holiday (“The Man I Love”), Lena Horne (“Stormy Weather”) and Ella Fitzgerald (“Someone to Watch Over Me”) songs.
Then Knight brought out a 50-person choir and they all sang John Lennon’s “Imagine,” then closed out the show with “Neither One of Us” and a quick rendition of “Last Train to Georgia.”
She’ll return to the Hollywood Bowl on August 31, 2016, as a special guest at the Black Movie Soundtrack II show; find tickets here.
And so what if it took almost as long after the classic concert to get out of the Hollywood Bowl traffic as it did to get in? After all, it is the Hollywood Bowl, people, one of the world’s most spectacular outdoor music venues on the planet. A little suffering to be lucky enough to be there really isn’t a big deal.