Vol 45 Issue 23

at The River Rock Casino
March 31

Growing up, I was introduced to Motown quite early, which is perhaps the reason it was like second nature for me. Back in the late ’60s, Knight and her family band The Pips made a massive impression on the Motown scene, releasing some of the label's biggest singles. When Gladys embarked on a solo career in the late ’80s, she went on to cover blues, jazz, and gospel music. Her show at the River Rock was a fantastic retrospective covering all her eras, without coming off like a desperate cash-grab focusing on a career that once was.

In fact, Knight's star is still bright and intact. Her current run on TV mainstay Dancing With The Stars is not a washed-up stop-in, but an appearance by a rare legend who has continued to tour into her late 60s, while still recording music both old and new.

Near the end of the show, after churning out a handful of classic throwback tunes, Knight performed her new single “I (Who Have Nothing)”. The cover of the Ben E. King standard showed a new edgier side of Knight, with dark harmonies instilling urgency into the romantic track. Such seems to be the greatness of Knight as a vocalist and performer.

A mid-section of the set gave Knight some breathing time when her brother and former member of The Pips, Merald “Bubba” Knight, came onstage to duet with Gladys on The Beatles’ “Yesterday”. It was a sentimental and touching throwback that made me wonder if my sister and I will be that cool when we’re in our 60s.

Gladys’ voice is unmistakable, but lends itself well to many genres. Knight's set jumped with ease from her early hits with The Pips such as “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” to down-tempo jazz numbers like “Someone To Watch Over Me”. She even dabbled in modern country, with her own spin on JoAnn Womack’s “I Hope You Dance”, which was met with one of at least a half-dozen standing ovations of the evening.

Knight met her crowd with humour and flair, explaining her life and its stories through the songs, introducing each number with impressive storytelling chops. Knight seemed almost overwhelmed when the entire house was brought to their feet at the beginning of closing number, “Midnight Train To Georgia”, which seemed to be not only nostalgic for myself, but most of the people in the room.

//JJ Brewis, art director

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