She may not have had a British hit record for 17 years, but Gladys Knight had no trouble filling Symphony Hall on the first night of her latest tour.
Even so, the show got off to a shaky start. After 30 minutes of Liverpool impressionist Lesley Gibson's dated comedy, there was a lengthy wait, which the impatient crowd filled with slow-handclaps and catcalls, before the 62-year-old soul diva hit the stage at 8.55pm, a vision in shocking pink.
All smiles, Gladys launched into 1969's Motown hit Friendship Train followed by Licence To Kill, her theme song for Timothy Dalton's James Bond outing of the same name, backed by a mighty ensemble comprising . . . deep breath . . . five trumpets, four trombones, five saxes, four keyboard players, a guitarist and bass guitarist, drummer, percussionist and three backing singers.
After a sublime Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me from 1975, it was back to 1961 for Every Beat Of My Heart, before Love Overboard and If I Were Your Woman took us to a selection from Before Me, Gladys's excellent new album of jazz standards, about to be released in the UK by Verve Records.
From Duke Ellington's Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me to Billie Holiday's God Bless The Child, these are the songs that influenced the Georgia-born singer during her childhood years and she invested them all with an individual down-home soulfulness.
To close the show, Gladys was joined by brother Bubba Knight, the sole performing Pip (Edward Patten passed away in February 2005, while William Guest is currently recovering from triple heart by-pass surgery), for Midnight Train To Georgia and I Heard It Through The Grapevine, concluding with an emotional I Will Survive. Fabulous.
David Yeats ..SUPL: