In the 1960s, the famous (and now infamous) music producer Phil Spector created what he called the Wall of Sound. Little could he have imagined that a half century later, that Wall of Sound would be recreated in , fronted by the dynamo that is Darlene Love.
Saturday night’s sold out concert – aptly titled “Love for the Holidays” – was a blast from start to finish. Darlene Love, wearing rhinestone encrusted spike heels, worked the stage like the professional she is, never standing still and constantly connecting with the audience. It’s hard to believe that Love is in her 70s. She has the energy and vocal power of a woman half her age.
A bit of background about this dynamic performer – Love began her career in the 1960s, singing lead, and sometimes backup vocals on a long list of Phil Spector-produced hits. Over the next few decades, Love sang backup for Dionne Warwick, and appeared on Broadway and in movies. But she is perhaps best known for her holiday classic “(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home,” which she’s been performing on the David Letterman show for years.
Love brought with her an impressive 10-piece backup band, consisting of three backup singers, a pianist, guitarist, bass player, drummer, female percussionist, saxophone player, and a keyboard player who, like last month’s show, played a retro Hammond organ through a rotating speaker. The total sound was amazingly tight, and I believe this was the largest band I’ve seen on the Landmark stage.
The show was high-energy from the outset. Love opened with “Joy to the World,” much to the delight of an audience that sang along. Over the course of the evening, Love performed golden oldies, including “Wait Til my Bobby Gets Home,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “He’s A Rebel,” and “Don’t Make Me Over.” Towards the middle of her set, Love turned the show into a family affair by introducing her sister, singer Edna Wright (of the trio Honey Cone). The sisters did “Hold On I’m Coming” together, and then Love went offstage and left Wright – an equally capable performer – to perform three songs on her own.
Love returned to the stage to perform “White Christmas,” one of several holiday songs played during the show. Throughout her show, Love regaled the audience with stories of her years in show biz. Interestingly, many of her stories involved Phil Spector, and didn’t exactly paint him in a good light. For example, she told the story about how, in the 1960s, Spector had called her in to lead on “Da Doo Ron Ron” only to later erase her part and have it rerecorded by another artist. “Well, look where he is now,” was Love’s attitude about it. Love, meanwhile, had the honor of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Even when speaking about times that must have been disappointing for her, she remained positive and upbeat.
Among the many highlights of the evening was a Marvin Gaye medley, performed with Love’s male backup singer, and a magnificent version of “River Deep – Mountain High,” with which she closed her show. Her encore was “(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home,” but I believe the audience was thinking something more like “(Christmas) Darlene Please Come Back.” Several audience members were overheard wishing that Love’s holiday show could be an annual occurrence in Port Washington, and I hope that Landmark Director Sharon Maier-Kennelly agrees.