Small in stature yet towering with talent, Darlene Love sang her heart out to a near-capacity audience at the Festival Theatre on the eve of the closing of this year’s Cabaret Festival.
Love, 75, proudly claimed the centre-stage position among her talented band of three saxophonists, two trombonists, two guitarists, keyboard player and percussion, with four back-up singers at the side of the stage – a place that is very familiar to Love.
A minister’s daughter, Love was immersed in melody from an early age. Singing in gospel choirs led to her backing some of the world’s finest artists, including Cher, Dionne Warwick and Tom Jones. Until her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, she was labelled “the most successful unknown singer in rock and roll history”.
Love’s career as a back-up singer is documented in the 2012 Academy Award winning film 20 Feet from Stardom, which investigates life behind the microphone for some of the most acclaimed voices in the American music industry.
From the Festival Theatre stage, she spoke generously about the joys and challenges of the industry that has shaped her life. One of the tough lessons came when “He’s a Rebel”, which Love recorded with her vocal group The Blossoms, was credited by record producer Phil Spector to The Crystals; the song became a hit single and sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide.
Love’s bold and sassy Adelaide performance kicked off with an electrifying version of an early back-up hit, “Da Doo Ron Ron”, which was followed by some famous classics from Bruce Springsteen, Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack and Tina Turner. Love explained that one of her all-time favourites, “River Deep, Mountain High”, was “taken from me” by Spector and recorded with Turner.
An undeniable powerhouse of a woman brimming with soul and perseverance, Love offered the audience and each section of her band a bow of gratitude at the completion of her jam-packed hour on stage. Thank God for Love.
Darlene Love performed as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which finished on the weekend.
© Patricia Herreen 2014