Sunday, June 24 , 2018, 3:05 am | Overcast 64º

 
 
 
 

A Knight to Remember at The Granada

Gladys Knight stirs the soul with a performance worthy of Motown's rich history.

Rock and soul diva Gladys Knight belted out some of the old hits that had The Granada audience jumping.
Rock and soul diva Gladys Knight belted out some of the old hits that had The Granada audience jumping. (Donald Jahadhmy / South Coast Photos)

They don’t make ‘em like they used to, as a trip to The Granada on Saturday night proved: Gladys Knight is as strong, powerful and soulful as she’s ever been.

At 64, the rock and soul diva fronted a percussion-packed band and belted out some of the old hits that had the audience jumping. If the majority of the concert-goers were of a vintage to remember her the first time around, there were plenty of young fans, too.

Clad in a white pantsuit with sparkles, Knight came out strong, not only singing but dancing, joking and exhorting the audience to “have a ball.” Her song list included “License,” “Nitty Gritty,” “Hello,” the nostalgic “You’re the Best Thing” and “Neither One of Us.”

Her backup singers were strong in their own right, helping to enrich the sound from the Granada stage. At one point, one of her “brothers” came from the wings to join her in repartee, including sly digs about “cheap tickets” and the tour bus on which they rode into town.

Knight also made reference to younger black artists who have made a name for themselves in recent years. “Tyler Perry and The Family That Preys Together, that young man is so spiritual,” she said. Knight also had praise and affection for the current singing star, Alicia Keys.

Knight has always credited her strong faith for guiding her to success and prosperity. She reminded her audience that love and gratitude are what bind society and families together. “We got to be grateful,” she declared.

Knight was a mainstay of Motown in the 1960s, and from that time has made her personal philosophy clear: “We all have a responsibility, and since I’ve been so wonderfully blessed, I really want to share and to make life at least a little better. So every chance I get to share the gospel or uplift people, I will take full advantage of that opportunity.”

After an hour and a half, Knight began to wind the concert down, with classics including, “End of the Road” and “Midnight Train.”

As the audience rose, roared and clapped, she leaned over the footlights to clasp hands with the people in the front row, smiling and giving them encouraging words. Then she left the stage, the curtain came down, and the audience kept on calling for more.

When most people stayed put and cheered, the curtain went up for one more number. Knight gave a sweet nod to her soul sister Aretha Franklin and sang “I Will Survive.”

Since Knight is still going strong, Santa Barbara audiences can hope that she will make a return visit. The grand, elegant Granada is as suitable for soul singers as for the symphony and ballet.

Noozhawk contributor Margo Kline can be reached at [email protected]

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