Gladys Knight & The Pips
Persuasions Soulful Soulmates
at Crisler Arena
It was Gladys Knight’s turn a few Thursday’s ago at Crisler Arena. She brought along the prancin’ Pips, a hot soul rhythm section, and more horns than you could shake a stick at.
In some ways the show came off as a replay of the Temptations at Eastern Michigan University last month, but Gladys sure has her own style, and her whole gang put on a great show.
There was just enough “showbiz” to warm Crisler Canyon up to a tolerable level. From there the band just took off, rocking out on crack Motown charts. Even on the slow tunes, they all cooked with lots of energy, displaying a slick suppleness that I must confess I’m hooked on.
The Pips were great, with lots of flashy soul struttin’ and sly vocal parts. Mmm! Over, under, around and through! Gladys mixes a smooth style with a hard, nitty gritty sound that comes out sounding very tough and convincing. She talked right to us, even back in row 102.
I must say that the Persuasions almost stole the show. As their LP’s note, “The persuasions use no other instrument than the human voice.” Rhythm and blues have their roots deep in the acapella gospel tradition, and seeing the Persuasions with Gladys was a pleasing combination.
There are five Persuasions; bass, baritone, two tenors and a lead singer. A band would just slow them down. From the minute they walked on stage they had the place jumping with beautifully hard-driving vocals that were so full of blues you couldn’t stand it. Two tunes stand out in my memory, “My Only Son” and “What is Acapella,” a new and then an old lesson in black history which the crowd really responded to. I’m now listening to my old Persuasions albums again. It’s really a great change of pace.
The Soulful Soulmates played a short set to warm everyone up. They were good but their brief appearance was marred by a few sound problems. By the time the mix was straightened out, they were about done. I thought the vocal mixes were too harsh most of the evening, blocking out many of the subtle harmonic things that make good soul music such a gas.
All in all a mighty fine evening of music, though. Rhythm and blues is alive and well.