Wednesday is usually considered “hump day”, which is the day that many of us look at as the moment in the week where things start to get easier. Well this past Wednesday, August 30th to be exact, Ms. Gladys Knight rolled into Baltimore and helped make things a little more smoother than usual.
The Soul by the Sea concert was a show curated to bring some of the best voices in soul music down to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore City at it’s famed water front venue, Pier Six Pavilion. The vibes of the night were extremely chill and laid back as you could feel in the air that this was a “grown people’s” event, but these are some of the best shows to see because there isn’t a lot of nonsense to deal with, which usually bodes well for the artists performing.
One of the most evident indications of this was the timing of the show…the opening act was scheduled to go on at 7:30 PM, and that’s exactly what happened. At thirty minutes past the seven o’clock hour, the “R&B Diva” Chante Moore strutted out on stage. Looking not a day over 30, Chante seems to be defying the hands of time and giving more meaning to the term “black don’t crack”, but her looks aren’t the only thing that’s continued to hold up. Her voice…the very instrument that has helped sustain her career for the 25+ years that she has been in the music industry is as clear and strong as it was from when she first hit the scene. Watching her show, one word came to mind, and that was the word underrated. There were so many elements in her setlist that had me scratching my head as to why she isn’t a bigger star than what she is. She covered a few others artists’ songs, one being Deniece Williams “Free“, and transformed the song from a sweet, lullaby type of song into a strong, powerhouse ballad, her command of her band (also known as The Touched Down Family, who absolutely jammed by the way) was that of a seasoned professional, and the use of her secret weapon, the ever elusive “whistle note”. Yes folks, the same highest register of the human voice that another famous diva is known for, is also a technique that Chante Moore has mastered. Not only has she mastered the note, but she’s also been able to preserve this part of her voice as well over the years.
At one point in the show, she took the some of the spotlight off of her, and gave the attention to a special audience member Gale, who received quite a rousing lap dance and personal selection rendered to him, as she performed her single “Baby Can I Touch Your Body“. Ever acknowledging the fact that she was purely the opening act and wanted to hurry up and get off the stage so that she could sit amongst the “common folks” to watch Gladys, her set closed with a nod to the King of Pop Michael Jackson, as she sang a cover of The Jackson’s hit, “This Place Hotel”
There was a brief intermission between acts to allow for set changes, and then the house lights went back down at 9:30 PM to the tunes of Shalamar’s “A Night To Remember” as the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight made her way to center stage to many applause. Officially opening her set with a song that she originally performed with the Pips, “Bourgie, Bourgie” kicked things off right, and all of a sudden, this “grown people’s” affair turned into an old school disco. I observed several older women get up out of their seats, forget about any types of physical pains, and get their two-step on in the middle of the aisle. Right before the show began, I was wondering if she would perform my personal favorite song of hers (thanks to her appearance on the sitcom A Different World), and then I heard the words “Gladys…Gladys…whoop” blare across the sound system. Now was my time to party for a bit as she dug into “Love Overboard“. It was at the moment that I took notice to how timeless this diva really was. Here she was singing a song that at this point is 30 years old, and sounded exactly like the version that’s on wax. The title “Soul By The Sea” was so appropriate for this show, because there is a very specific soulfulness tinge to Ms. Knight’s voice that can’t be faked. I’m almost convinced that she should be giving lessons to a lot of these younger acts out here who tend to think that they are the epitome of soul today, but come off as being a tad-bit soul-less.
Well then again, I guess class WAS in session as I was quickly schooled on something that I hadn’t previously known, that she was the originator of the song “I Heard It Through The Grapevine“. After all of these years, I was under the assumption that the hit made by Marvin Gaye, was indeed his original work. No folks, Gladys did it first! Throughout her hour plus long set, she barely scratched the surface on many of the hits that she had cut over the years. If we would want the FULL Gladys Knight experience, we’d need to carve out a 4 hour window for a concert that featured ONLY her, and even still, that probably wouldn’t be enough time to cover all the essentials of her back catalog.
As the classy diva that she remains to be, towards the end of her show she handed the floor over to her three background singers, who broke out into an all out Prince medley of his signature hits. Working with an artists who is DECADES in to the industry, you’ve got to be able to keep up with her vocally, and her vocalists did not disappoint. The show appropriately ended on the hit that many people know her for, “Midnight Train To Georgia“. Albeit it was not midnight (but close enough), Ms. Knight jumped aboard as she waved goodbye to her fans and was off to the next city.
For anyone who can appreciate classic music from when music was GREAT, I’d suggest you grab your parents or grandparents, and an extra set of tickets to go see this show when that midnight train pulls up to your town.