April 28, 2013 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Gladys at the Strathmore: brief but magical

Soul legend Gladys Knight played two nights at the Strathmore last week. I caught the Friday night show which found the singer in fine voice running through a vigorous hit-heavy set with a smoking tight band.

She was also in a chatty, jovial mood. Her sassy, tell-it-like-it-is stories had the sold out crowd — probably 75 percent African-American — in the palm of her hand.

Gladys Knight at the Strathmore Friday night. (Photo courtesy Brian Walmer)

Gladys Knight at the Strathmore Friday night. (Photo courtesy Brian Walmer)

Looking 25 years younger than she is (68) and with vocals that sounded as rich and solid as they did in 1967, it was an almost magical night. The only downside — and with many tickets soaring past the $100 mark, it was an issue — was the overall brevity of the evening. Knight was on stage only about 75 minutes, with nearly 15 of that being eaten up by her joined-at-the-hip brother Bubba. Yeah, he’s an original Pip and deserves respect, but it was painful after awhile realizing his heavily stage-crafted schtick was taking up so much time.

Of course the Knight siblings — true to their old school show biz roots — pretended all this heavily worked out banter was spontaneous. And while much of it was cute, a little less of that and a few more songs would have made for an almost perfect evening. The lack of an encore — she sometimes comes back out for “The Way We Were” — added to the “bare minimum” feel.

To Knight’s credit however, she doesn’t phone in her show — it was substantially different from the set list she played at Wolf Trap in 2009.

The Strathmore is truly one of Washington’s finest concert venues. I was there two weeks ago for a classical concert (organist Cameron Carpenter) yet it works just as well for a “pop” show such as Knight’s. Friends in the top balcony said the sound was muddy up there — hard to know if that’s a venue thing or something with Knight’s crew — but the sound mix was pristine on the floor.

SET LIST

Soldier of Love
Just Fine
If I Were Your Woman
You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me
Feelin’ Good (Vacilon)
I’ve Got To Use My Imagination
End of the Road Medley:
-If You Don’t Know Me By Now
-Love Don’t Love Nobody
-End of the Road
Before Me Medley:
-The Man I Love
-Stormy Weather
-Someone To Watch Over Me
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Neither One of Us
Bubba Knight Segment:
-Yesterday (Duet w/Gladys)
-Love & Happiness
-Funky Good Time
-Dance To The Music
-Love & Happiness (Reprise)
Midnight Train To Georgia

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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