Saturday, November 12, 2011
Presenting Ms Gloria Gaynor
On that 1950s series, housewife contestants spoke, often through uncontrolled sobbing, about their recent financial, physical and/or emotional hard times. Their distress was gauged by the response on an audience applause meter. The deeper the tsuris, the more thunderous the applause! The "biggest loser," as it were, would become Queen for a Day, given a crown to wear, seated on a velvet throne, handed a bouquet of long-stemmed roses to embrace as tears streamed down her face, just like the reigning beauty queen in a pageant (or the Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Feast of Fools)! She also received prizes for being a hopeless wretch like a washer, dryer or a vacuum cleaner. It was a particularly sado-masochistic experience (the crown should have been made of thorns) and a forerunner of today's reality-tv shows.
For all us Queens for a Day, disco queen Gloria Gaynor is our patron saint when she belts out "I Will Survive." And that she did Saturday night at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York. "I Will Survive" is one of the best-known dance songs ever, a timeless international sensation and a celebration of inner strength and the ability to move ahead in the wake of adversity. Although literally about surviving the end of a love affair, it strikes a nerve with everyone who has ever gone through hard times and was made stronger by them.
The deluxe, extended version performed at the end of Ms Gaynor's set was extremely powerful and electrifying, worth the price of admission alone. GG virtually turned the packed house of seated patrons into a disco of enthusiastically dancing, prancing party people.
Ms Gaynor looked fantastic and quite youthful in basic black with a change of sparkly overlays. Her resonant, rich voice is practically a force of nature. She opened with her disco cover of "Going Out of My Head (Over You)" that was immediately engaging, and then launched into her Gay Pride fave, "I Am What I Am" (from the musical, La Cage aux Folles), followed by her 70s club and radio hit, "Never Can Say Goodbye." An awesome start!
Other highlights included songs from the Grammy Award-winning singer's brand new album, the 2003 club favorite "I Never Knew" and her encore, "Just Keep Thinking About You," a dance hit from 2001 that boasted an outstanding remix by our boys at Almighty in the UK, as well as a house music cover of The Supremes' "Stop in the Name of Love."
Known as a dance-floor diva, Glo naturally strives to show her versatility. It is here that she drops the disco ball, however. Throwing in well-worn ballads like "The Way We Were" and "Killing Me Softly" just don't live up to the rest of her set, no matter that she belts them out with flawless conviction and style. Meanwhile, beloved dance songs for which she's known ("Anybody Wanna Party?, "Honey Bee," "Casanova Brown," "Substitute" or her disco version of "How High the Moon") were disappointingly excluded from the night's set in favor of rather random pop tunes.
Ms Gaynor nonetheless ruled the stage with an easygoing, casual and smoothly professional presence and grace, accompanied by her band and back-up vocalists par excellence. It was an overall exciting and rousing night of entertainment. But she shouldn't shy from her disco dominance one iota. She is what she is, a disco diva on top of the mirrorball. Gloria Gaynor wrote the foreward to Johnny Morgan's magnificent book, Disco: The Music, The Times, The Era (described in greater detail in my blog entry, "Eye Candy"); she wrote it with wit, intelligence and an obvious love of disco as a musical genre. She is very much aware of her iconic status in that genre and, to paraphrase "I Am What I Am," what she is needs no excuses.
Gloria Gaynor has survived and she has resurrected the upbeat and all-inclusive joy of disco music for a new generation. She is not just Queen for a Day, but Queen for all time when it comes to the eternal beat of the dance floor.
Below, Ms Gaynor at the Crimea Music Fest earlier this year: