Gladys Knight Proves “Empress of Soul” Title Still Holds At Atlantic City’s Borgata (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

Gladys Knight, one of music’s all-time great voices, performed at the Borgata Event Center in Atlantic City on Friday 7/26. There is no doubt that with her seven Grammy wins( three with the Pips, four for her solo work) and her induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 that she has reached iconic status. It was no surprise then to see a very hyped up crowd waiting for her to come out on stage. Knight came out and looked stunning in a sparkly silver two-piece outfit. Backed by a killer band that she later called her “music family”, she started the night off with the 1973 hit “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination”.

Some of the songs played during her set will soon be nearing the 50-year mark so this ride down memory lane no doubt will evoke many memories for some in the crowd. The audience reacted instantly on the opening chords for her early 70’s hits “Neither One of Us” and “You’re the Best Thing To Ever Happen To Me”. She slowed it down even further with her beautiful emotionally charged cover of Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were”. The funked-up “Save the Overtime”, which included a snippet of the Luther Vandross song ” Never too Much” got the crowd dancing. Knight mentioned she started off in a jazz band in high school and had learned from many jazz greats, including Ella Fitzgerald. She then played a great cover of Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothing till You Hear from Me”, which had been covered by everyone from Ella, Billie Holiday and Lena Horne; she also mentioned Sammy Davis was a big influence on her as well.

In between songs, Knight talked about life, love, loss, and faith and also shared some great stories from back in the day. Upon playing “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, she reminded the crowd that Gladys Knight and the Pips were the first to record it, not Marvin Gaye. Knight said in the late ’60s her producer was so hyped on that song that he wanted them to record it as soon as possible, knowing it was something special. So with no appointment, he took the band to Motown Studios and made another guy who was in the recording booth at the time leave. That “guy” was Smokey Robinson! Her stories were a who’s who of music’s royalty.

Knight’s chemistry with the crowd was apparent the minute she walked out on stage. For every “I love You” shouted out to her, and there were many, she responded right back. She came off endearing and repeatedly expressed her gratitude to the crowd for her success, and also seemed very sentimental during the night. Knight talked about the loss of her friend singer/songwriter James Ingram this year and stated if she ever had a tribute song sung for her it would be Ingram’s”One Hundred Ways”. She went on to add that it was her favorite song and when her band played it and was sung by her backup singer JaVonte.

Knight also mentioned missing some of the great ladies in music like Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson and Natalie Cole. She then busted right into “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman”. One of Knight’s backup singers joined her on the song and it was an absolute show stopper as the crowd leaped to its feet. Some other highlights were the feel-good song “That’s What Friends are For”, which turned into a hands-in-the-air sing-a-long.

Knight ended her set with the biggest hit of her career, “Midnight Train to Georgia”. Gladys Knight has affectionately been known as the Empress of Soul, a name that had been bestowed on her decades ago. At 75 years young -it still holds.

Photos by Cathy Poulton

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