I must have been around 11 or 12 years old the first time I heard a Gladys Knight and the Pips song (or record, as we used to call them back then) – and I’ve never forgotten the effect it had on me. Listening to Gladys singing of far-off places such as Georgia; to her tales of love, heartbreak and second chances, a whole new world opened itself up to me and I vowed that one day I would watch her perform in person. Well, it has taken a while (OK, several decades) but the opportunity finally presented itself tonight – and in the perfect setting, London’s Royal Albert Hall.
It’s hard to believe that Gladys is 72 years old – her voice remains as rich and luscious as ever and she bantered engagingly with the audience throughout the evening – this is a woman who knows how to work a crowd. I love the fact that she threw in a couple of modern classics – Adele’s ‘Hello’, and a spine-tingling interpretation of Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’ – what a compliment to those artists. But it was Gladys’ own music that we had come to hear – and she didn’t let us down, treating us to a two-hour set that took in all the old favourites whilst regaling us with anecdotes about her life, career and the many legends that she has rubbed shoulders with.
Daringly, Gladys finished with a rousing medley of Prince songs that she performed with her backing singers, leaving us all on a high that it is going to take some time to come down from. What a night, what a performer – and what a woman.