Darlene Love: Back Again and Better Than Ever

It was Darlene Love’s third performance at Landmark on Main Street on Sunday evening, and love was certainly in the air. The Christmas-themed show was perfect for a lightly snowy evening.

Simply put, Love is an outstanding performer. Rarely have I ever seen a performer who gives so much of herself at each show. Love sings full out, not holding a thing back, as if it were her last performance on earth. You’d never suspect she could get into a tour bus and do it again tomorrow.

The show opened with a lively rendition of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and Love bounded onto the stage looking and sounding better than ever. She was backed by one of the largest groups of musicians to grace the Landmark stage at once – a total of ten: 3 backup singers, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, saxophone, keyboards and piano.

Love always comes across as charming, funny, and dedicated to her craft, which I believe is exactly how she is in real life. Over the course of the evening, she performed several Christmas songs, including “Marshmallow World,” “All Alone on Christmas,” and “White Christmas,” as well as several of her 60’s classics (and audience favorites), “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “He’s a Rebel,” and “Wait Til My Bobby Gets Home.”

But without a doubt, the high point for me was her stunning medley performed with her extremely talented backup singer, Milton Vann. The medley began with a gorgeous rendition of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” and then segued into “Where is the Love” and finally a rousing version of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’re My Soul and Inspiration.” The audience was breathless when the singers finished (but Love, to her credit, was not).

As she has in the past, Love turned the stage over to one of her backup singers for a song. In this case, it was Vann, who did a magnificent and inspirational version of “O Holy Night.”

Love closed the concert with a trifecta of songs, including “Marvelous” (a spiritual, done with the support of her backup singers), a fabulous version of “Lean on Me,” and finally, Love’s signature song, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” The audience was clapping and cheering long after Ms. Love made her final curtsey (not easy with 4-inch spike heels), threw kisses and left the stage.

Love didn’t mention infamous producer Phil Spector during this show, indicating to me that she’s past whatever wrongs he did to her. As she should be, considering where he is, compared to where she is. Besides being a singer, Love is an actress, author, and mother of five. The 72-year old performer shows no signs of slowing down, and told the audience that she intended to keep doing this as long as she could… which I hope is forever.

If you have an opportunity to see Love perform, do so. Hopefully, Landmark will continue this wonderful tradition of having “Love for the Holidays” for many years to come.