The Evolution of Darlene Love

Performer’s 5th Annual Landmark Performance Shows Just How Far She’s Come 

The great performer Darlene Love returned to Landmark on Main Street for her fifth annual sold out “Love for the Holidays” performance on December 5th, but this show was a departure from her previous four year. Yes, the performer put on a wonderful, high-energy show, as always. Yes, she included Christmas songs, and several of her trademark hits from the 1960’s. So what was different?

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Darlene Love is looking forward, and not back. Her focus is no longer on the wrongs done to her in the 1960’s by music producer Phil Spector (now serving a life sentence in prison). Her focus isn’t even on the 1960’s at all – although of course she played such fan favorites as “He’s a Rebel,” “The Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Wait Til My Bobby Gets Home,” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” No – Darlene Love is focused on the future, and her future looks bright.

The 74-year old performer has just released her first ever solo CD – Introducing Darlene Love — produced by Stevie Van Zandt. The CD is loaded with new songs written for Love by the likes of fans such as Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and (Landmark favorite) Jimmy Webb, as well as some unexpected covers. Love, and her impressive backup band – consisting of guitar, two keyboard players, drums, percussion, bass, trumpet, saxophone and three singers – treated the audience to a string of new songs including the Stevie Van Zandt-penned “Among the Believers,” “Love Kept Us Foolin’ Around” by Linda Perry, “Sweet Freedom” by Barry Mann, “Just Another Lonely Mile” by Bruce Springsteen, and “Forbidden Nights” the first single, written by Elvis Costello. These are great powerful songs for a great powerful performer, and Love gives her all in their performance.

There were two particular standouts from the new CD. In the 1980’s when CD’s first became common and I bought my very first CD player, the first CD I purchased was Joan Jett’s Up Your Alley which I bought for just one single song – “Little Liar.” Imagine my surprise (and delight) when Darlene Love revealed that it’s on her new CD, and then gave a full-out performance of it. The second bit of magic was when Love revealed that Jimmy Webb had written a song for the CD. The idea was that it would be a modern day “MacArthur Park” but it even surpassed that. The song, “Who Under Heaven” was a huge opus, complete with a great trumpet part, and an extended instrumental during which Love left the stage to the musicians. The only word for that performance was breathtaking.

During the intermission, the audience swarmed the merchandise table in a frenzy to the buy the new CD. There were none remaining by the time Love returned to the stage.

As a former backup singer herself, Love always gives credit (and stage time) to her three superb backing vocalists – Milton Vann, Baritone Williams and Ula Hedwig – who did a lovely version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Truly stunning was Milton Vann’s soaring “O Holy Night.” Love took the stage again to do some of the Phil Spector-era crowd pleasers, like “He’s a Rebel.” She closed with the lovely “River Deep, Mountain High” (also on the new CD) and her final number was her traditional holiday song – “Christmas {Baby Please Come Home).”

With five decades of experience under her belt, Love just keeps getting better. She’s a true inspiration on many levels, and it’s been a pleasure to watch her turn her focus forward. Don’t miss an opportunity to see Darlene Love if she comes to your town.

Read my previous reviews of Darlene Love performances at the Landmark: 2011  2012  2013  2014 

Steven Sandick Photography (logo)

Sandick Photography