Gladys Knight at The Festival Theatre simply gave the audience a classic performance tonight that will long stay in the memories of everybody lucky enough to be there. This lady is not only one of the greatest singers of her generation (well any generation actually), but also one of the all time great performers and this show just gave us all the chance to see and hear why Gladys Knight has justifiably earned her iconic status.
When a performer has had a career like this (seven-time Grammy Award winning just part of it), it must be difficult for them to put a set of songs together for a show as you are always going to miss someone’s favourite out. On the other hand though when that set includes classics such as “Midnight Train To Georgia”, “Licence To Kill” (the official James Bond Film song), “You’re The Best Thing (that ever happened to me)”, “Love Overboard”, “Neither of Us (Wants to Be the First To Say Goodbye”), and the original (and still always the best to me) version of “I Heard it Through The Grapevine” you can be sure that at least one of these is a favourite with so many people in the audience. Everything of course performed with that amazing vocal range that Gladys Knight has and with style.
This was not just a trip down memory lane though, and songs from the album “Where My Heart Belongs” were also featured.
It was nice to see Gladys Knight so at ease with her audience in this show and also watching just how strong that connection between the two is. There are few performers out there that ever get taken into an audience’s heart like this and stay there over such a long performing career, and like all the greats that support is clearly understood and respected.
This show also paid musical tribute to some of Gladys Knight’s personal heroes of the past – Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and to more contemporary likes including Prince, Lionel Ritchie and Adele.
In a world where the style now for so many singers seems to be to sing out as loudly and powerfully as possible irrespective of the song or its lyrics, it is a pleasure to watch an “old style singer” who understands that just because you have a huge vocal range with enormous power that it is not always needed and that the lyrics and the emotion of a song are important and that sometimes a whisper is more effective than a shout, that the human voice is an incredible instrument if you know how to play it properly.
We got to hear many styles from Gladys Knight in this show...from early jazz and gospel roots to soul, classic vocals and more contemporary styles which all reflected just how wide ranging her love of music is. Interestingly to me too, was being told that so many of these classic songs that we all associate with a soul diva were actually written by country writers.
Backing Gladys Knight all the way through this show was one of the tightest bands that I have heard in a long time, plus four great backing singers who were allowed time to show off their own talents.
Although the vocal performances here were outstanding, as much of the pleasure of this show was just listening to Gladys Knight as we were given little windows into the person behind the voice and a tiny glimpse into just how many incredible people have touched her circle of life over the years. This very much is someone who loves people and being in their company. Someone who prefers real people over modern social media communication and fears that we are all losing something there (I have to agree with that sentiment). Above all though, this is a person who just loves life, family, friends, music, her audience and very importantly to her, Church and God.
This show was simply a master class to any aspiring singers out there in the audience tonight on how to interpret a song and engage with an audience.
To keep up to date with Gladys Knight, visit her website at
Opening the show tonight was Polly Gibbons, a singer who is earning a much deserved reputation as one of the best of the newer vocalist out there.
Polly has a wide and powerful vocal range that suited the classic soul, blues and jazz songs in this set. Polly Gibbons is not just a vocalist though, but a talented songwriter as the song “Midnight Prayer” (co-written with James Pearson) clearly shows.
Polly Gibbons has recorded two albums to date – “My Own Company” and “Many Faces of Love”. Both are available from her website at
Review by Tom King