Mavis Staples came to the Wildwood Amphitheater on Lake Orion for a single purpose on Tuesday night, August 17th.
“We come to bring you joy… happiness… inspiration and positive vibes,” the living legend told the crowd gathered in lawn chairs and blankets on the grassy hill in front of her. “We want you to feel good.”
The mission was accomplished – though not everyone there “let go … like a bowl of Jell-O,” as she ordered.
Over the course of 75 minutes and 14 songs, Staples fused soul, gospel and pop, something she has done for 72 years since the start of family group Staples Singers, in a dynamic and transformative session that uplifted and uplifted invoked the spirits.
Opening the four-show Wildwood Across The Night series, the 82-year-old Multiple Hall of Fame showed an abundance of age-defying exuberance and daring. Her voice alternated between a purr and a growl and her onstage demeanor ranged from speakeasy singer to rally speaker to Sunday morning preacher and even heartwarming grandma.
There’s a lot of stuff in that little package, in other words, and Staples played with the authority of someone who’s been there, seen it, done it, and in the end l made him feel good.
Tuesday’s show was also a welcome celebration for the awakened ones. Staples’ role in social activism dates back to the 1960s, and it has been a crucial part of his recent solo albums.
“We have gone too far to be lost. … So many bridges still, oh to cross, ”she sang during“ Brothers and Sisters, ”while in“ Build a Bridge, ”Staples encouraged listeners to“ look at our country, the people we don’t see. never / Standing side by side, we divided / Solitary in the land of the free.
She made Talking Heads’ “Slippery People” an uplifting tale, and Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” as rallying cries, while “You Are Not Alone” and a “Wade” fit for a church in the water “was a soothing comfort in the storm.
These, of course, came in addition to the still resonant Staple Singers classics such as “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)”, “Respect Yourself” and the closing show “I’ll Take You. There “.
Staples also injected a lot of fun and humor into the midst of these serious posts. As usual, guitarist and conductor Rick Holmstrom was his main foil, inserting tasteful solos into almost every song and engaging in a playful exchange during a performance of the vigorous “Let’s Do It Again. “- written for the Staples Singers by Curtis Mayfield – this forced a laughing Staples to jump up and start fanning himself.
Clearly having fun after a period of absence from the stage caused by a pandemic, Staples told the Wildwood crowd at one point that “we could come back tomorrow night!” Chances are everyone there would have been more than happy to join her as well.
The Across The Night series continues on August 24 with Ani DiFranco. Country singer Frankie Ballard will perform on August 27, while Watchhouse (formerly Mandolin Orange) will perform on September 16. Tickets and details via audiotreepresents.com.