Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
January 22, 2012
By Eric Sutter
Soul/folk/gospel singer Mavis Staples performed an inspirational sound of good news and joy in a concert at Great Barrington’s Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Her voice always had a ring of truth to it and this night was no exception. Like the clang of a horseshoe hitting home, she began with the loud praise of “Wonderful Savior.” She eased into the traditional a cappella gospel song “Creep Along Moses.” Her band and she payed homage to contemporaries with the John Fogerty-penned “Wrote A Song For Everyone” and a tribute to her Last Waltz performance with The Band‘s “The Weight,” from the 1976 farewell concert documentary.
Next came the title cut from her Grammy-nominated Americana CD, “You Are Not Alone” by Wilco‘s Jeff Tweedy. This brought a hushed silence of wonder from the audience… the anticipation melted as the familiar strain of the Pops Staples song “Freedom Highway” gushed with heartfelt emotion as the relief from the audience was audible with a collective sigh and forthcoming singing. The memories from the 1962 Civil Rights era continued with her urgent plea vocal set to the socially conscious lyrics of the Dr. Martin Luther King’s favorite Staple Singers song, “Why? (Am I Treated So Bad). “We’re Going To Make It” turned into an old-fashioned ring shout of a cappella delight with Donny Gerrard, Vicki Randle and Mavis and Yvonne Staples harmony voices which climaxed with a ferocious electric guitar solo by Rick Holmstrom. Just as the gospel fervor hit it’s zenith, Jeff Turmes performed a cool slide guitar instrumental of “Go Down Moses (Let My People Go).” Rick Holmstrom mellowed the deep emotional impact further with his sweet, soothing challenge of a blues instrumental that cut through the messy condition of being human. Hallelujah!
“I Belong To The Band” brought forth more lovely harmony singing and a positive message of love to close. They encored with the 1971 #1 hit on the soul and pop charts, the reggae-influenced groove of “I’ll Take You There.” Scout’s honor, the singing cheers were like the good vibe of a homerun hit in your favorite baseball park… except everyone was a winner.
Eric Sutter is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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