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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Darlene Love at Joe's Pub

It was the summer of love. At least it felt like summer and Darlene Love was putting on a show. This is a performer who never disappoints and her current show was as easy, breezy and as warm as today's weather.

Joe's Pub is under construction but, beyond taking the bar out of the cabaret room, and placing it in the kitchen to add more seats, I don't see what's all that new. Anyhow, Joe's is an intimate venue in the East Village (part of the Public Theater, in fact), so different from seeing Miss Love at B.B. King's in Times Square. "Here, I don't have to be the Christmas Queen," she quipped, in reference to her annual Christmas shows at B.B. King's. (Nonetheless, she'll be returning this December.)

Darlene Love announced she will be 71 years young later in the year, and she rocks with the energy of a 25-year-old.  She is a 2011 inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Asked recently if Phil Spector, famously the producer of the '60s records that introduced her as a solo artist, congratulated her on that, Miss Love laughed, "He's in jail, child!" What about Ronnie Spector? "No," she remarked, "And everybody says that's weird!"

But other divas have congratulated her and sung her praises, namely Dionne Warwick, Cher, Gladys Knight and Nancy Sinatra. "I was also truly thrilled (and a little bit jealous!) to see her get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame," said Nancy. Maybe more than a little bit? But, basically, an honest account, no doubt.

Darlene Love is a diva's diva and I have been a life-long fan. Tonight's show was a relaxed workshop of sorts with off-the-cuff patter (including a mention of Donna Summer, whose voice Darlene acknowledged as phenomenal); fleeting, last-minute huddling with her musical director on-stage; and careful movements across the small, cramped stage. Choreography of any sort would be out of the question.

Darlene sparkled in a glittery black jacket with chiffon sleeves and glittery shoes as well. Her back-up singers also sparkled (although Darlene eschews the word "back-up," having been one of the hardest working back-ups in the business herself). They included Ula Hedwig (one of the original Harlettes with Bette Midler).

Said Ula: "I have been singing background vocals for Darlene Love for 30 years.... It's great fun to be on the stage with her because we are not just 'the back-up singers,' we are right there with her and a part of the show."  The two other backing singers were Elaine Caswell and Milton Vance who impressed during the duets with Darlene.

The set began with the new "If You Believe in Me," those background singers a heavenly chorus for certain. It was followed up with a medley of "Wait till My Bobby Gets Home"/"Da-doo-ron-ron;" included a loving and lengthy Marvin Gaye tribute. Darlene's other Phil Spector-produced classics, "Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and "He's a Rebel," were included, as was "A Change Is Gonna Come," from her Broadway role as Motormouth Mabel in Hairspray, before she ended the show with "River Deep, Mountain High," the song in which Spector replaced her, as lead vocalist, with Tina Turner. Darlene always reclaims this as her own.

A couple of Joe's Pub's killer cosmos, a nice perch at the back of the room (table for two), good company, great show, let out into the warm, clear night on a high from such a perfect performance. Indeed, my Summer of Love has begun!


  1. Great artist and person. After years of being a fan over in the UK I met her at the Apollo in New York and she was so kind.

  2. Stuart, I've only met her once, in the '90s, after a Bottom Line performance in NYC, but she seemed genuine &, as you said, kind.

  3. Seventy-one years old?! Holy cow she looks amazing! Sounds like it was an enchanting evening. Thanks so much for the wrap-up, Buddy.

  4. I feel like I was THERE from your descriptions, Buddy! Thanks SO MUCH for your heartfelt review. My husband is about to turn 71, and he's got NOTHIN' on DARLENE!!! She looks FABULOUS!!!