Gladys Knight• April 8, 2022• Eccles Theater
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
We cover a lot of concerts here at Utah Concert Review. But it’s not often that we’re completely floored by the opportunity to cover a legend like Gladys Knight. The “Empress of Soul” played a Friday evening show at the beautiful Eccles Theater in Downtown Salt Lake City. It was an occasion where the venue fit the artist perfectly. I could tell by looking at the audience that many people also considered this night a big deal. Some were dressed like they were going to a movie premiere or an awards ceremony. Gladys Knight fans know how to get gussied up! I had a collared shirt on and I felt very underdressed!
I asked a few people if they had seen Ms. Knight perform before. Answers varied from this being, like me, their first time having the pleasure of seeing her to people who have been with her since the beginning when Knight began her career in the 60s. Those were some devoted fans. Gladys Knight has had an extensive and illustrious career. I was excited to get to experience her concert.
As I mentioned there was a general excitement for this concert. People were getting pumped up for the show to begin. I mean, Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen” was playing on the PA. I challenge you not to get excited. Some people were so excited they started to get a little irritated at what they deemed a late start. The concert had an announced starting time of 8 pm. As I was getting my camera situated at 8:05 pm a woman looked at me and said, “She’s late”. I had been given a little inside information so I told the lady, ‘I just heard that Gladys usually goes on at 8:10. So we’re close!”.
At 8:13 the lights went out and as it went dark, the last image I saw before the crowd went dark and the stage lit up was that woman smirking at me as if to say, “You were off by 3 minutes!”. In all my years of going to concerts, an artist going on 13 minutes after the announced showtime is probably the best I’ve ever seen. Some people don’t get out much I take it. I’m sure she was still able to enjoy the show.
I loved hearing the audience’s reaction when they’d hear their favorite songs start to play. One, in particular, was when the 1987 hit, “Love Overboard” started. I looked up into the box seats and realized that’s where the party was. Entire boxes full of people were up dancing with plenty of room to spare. It was clear that they were all together and they were having the time of their lives. A few people from the Orchestra Level seating would get up from time to time. But they kept their feelings subdued compared to the box seat folks. I was getting a little jealous because they looked like they were having so much fun.
Knight stated, “I’m just going to tell you a few things about me, ok?” as she went right into, “Oh What A Love I Have Found”. It’s such a beautiful song and she performed it in a storytelling way. It felt almost as if she was actually telling us about her. It was one of my favorite moments of the evening and it really connected the audience with the Soul Music Legend.
There are times in a show when you know you’re going to hear a song, and you already expect that song to be good, but somehow the performance exceeds your expectations. That was the case when Gladys Knight performed “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. It was impossible for that performance to go be bad. But it was so much better than I had anticipated. First off, her Empressness started the song in the style of Marvin Gaye’s iconic recording of the song. So that was amazing to hear. But just when you got settled into that groove, Knight and her impressive band transitioned into the version Gladys made famous with The Pips. I looked around and when that transition was made I saw some jaws drop and even saw one man mouth to his friend, “Ok here we go!”.
Instead of having The Pips, Gladys Knight had three phenomenal women singing back up for her. Their blend with Ms. Knight was dessert to the ears. They were one of the evening’s greatest highlights for me. A massively iconic song, performed iconically leaves a lasting impression on a music lover.
Following impressive performances of the Gershwin classic “Someone To Watch Over Me” and the Barbra Streisand hit “The Way We Were”, Gladys Knight did a medley of Gospel Songs. The one that had a lasting impression on me was a song I believe titled “Stand”. The lyrics were so moving. I could see the message of the song impact the audience to the point where one by one when the moment moved them, audience members would rise to their feet. This happened until everyone inside Eccles Theater was standing. It was a powerful moment.
There really is no other closer in a Gladys Knight concert that will suffice other than “Midnight Train to Georgia”. Right when the drum intro began, the audience roared their approval. It was one of those, “I can’t believe I’m actually seeing this person sing that song” moments. If I’m honest I don’t know if I ever thought what it might be like to hear Gladys Knight sing this song. It’s a song that’s been in my world for my entire life. So to get to actually hear it live was a truly gratifying experience.
I’d say the only negative thing about the evening was the concert was only an hour. Like exactly 60 minutes. When the show was over and I looked at the time I was shocked. It was hard for me to be too upset because it didn’t feel that short. I looked around really quick to see if anyone was like “Why is this concert over already?”. But everyone seemed pretty happy with what they just saw. Maybe Gladys knew that.
A security guard told me that they were told the show would be about 90 minutes, but even if you look on the setlist below of the songs crossed out, the show wouldn’t have gone that long. I would have enjoyed a few more songs, but I can’t complain. I loved what I saw. And was left feeling content. We had a real treasure in our town. It took me “back to a simpler place and time”. I hope Empress Knight returns so I can go back there again.