In a brilliant display of great timing, City Arts and Lectures welcomed “Oscar winner” Darlene Love to their stage at the Nourse Theater on Friday night for an evening of question answering and singing. As both the opening act and the headliner, she managed to be highly entertaining on both counts, literally leaving the crowd wanting more.
The first 30-40 minutes of the evening were a sit-down with City Arts and Lectures regular, Steven Winn, and mostly focused on anecdotes found in Love’s memoir, My Name Is Love. She expanded on her stories about Phil Spector, as his treatment of her had a long-lasting effect on Love’s career, and the contrast between his negative traits and his production genius is fascinating to all.
This is covered some in 20 Feet From Stardom, the Oscar-winning documentary that features Darlene Love and a group of background singers that all struggled to find greater success in the music industry. I do hope all of them have a career renaissance like Love, but there is something about the infectious positivity and laughter radiating from the stage tonight that makes me think that we’re all just meant to be fans of Darlene Love.
Finally, the chairs are removed, and the band takes the stage. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for; she’s gonna sing. And boy how she sings! This was a hand clapping, singing along, joyous set that featured “He’s a Rebel” and “Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” of course, but was also peppered with fantastic renditions of “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Killing Me Softly.”
An absolute highlight of the show was when she brought her own background singers forward and the four of them did a song called “Marvelous.” This was dedicated to a former singer she used to work with that had passed away, and the emotion from the stage was overwhelming. Dry eyes? Not in this house.
The set concluded, after about 45 minutes, with her take on a song Tina Turner made famous, “River Deep Mountain High.” It was as if the entire audience got sent into a time machine back to the ’60s and turned back into their younger selves for a few minutes, as the whole room was up, clapping and dancing. And after the band stopped playing, the clapping and hollering kept going.
The house lights came up. Everyone kept clapping and hooting and hollering and begging more. A man walked out to the microphone.
“Darlene Love has left the building.”
Dry eyes? Not in this house.