Mavis Staples delivers "tour-de-force" performance in Kelowna
by Miles Overn
The house lights faded to 50% and then to black. The stage was dimly lit. The sense of anticipation was not just in the air but all over everything and everyone. And then that bass line! Instantly transported me back in time to watching The Staples Singers on Soul Train when I was still a kid in school.
Staples started her set with “Come Go With Me” from 1973. This song was a gigantic hit for The Staples Singers that year, and while providing a groove and an infectious feel it also had the type of strong message that precious few artists can deliver at any point in their career. Starting her show with that song literally set the stage for an evening of comfort and encouragement and call to awareness and action. Brilliant.
She went from there directly to “Take Us Back” from her 2016 album Livin’ on a High Note. If there were any audience members that she hadn’t already pulled it by the end of Come Go With Me, she had the entire audience from that point through the rest of the night.
Slippery People is a Talking Heads cover that The Staples Singers did back in the 70s. She would later in the evening also do a cover of Ben Harper’s “Love and Trust” which she had recorded just a couple years back on her Livin’ on a High Note album. Both “Build a Bridge” and “Who Told You That” from her latest album, If All I Was Was Black, made the set list as well as several other classics and contemporary songs, underscoring not just her legendary status but also her continuing relevance and highly developed artistry.
Other tunes offered up included “Respect Yourself,” “Freedom Highway,” “You Are Not Alone” and “We’re Gonna Make It” before closing out the night with “No Time for Cryin’” from If All I Was Was Black.
Staples was supported by what has been her touring band for many years now; Stephen Hodges on drums, Rick Holmstrom on guitar, and Jeff Turmes on electric bass. So much groove and attitude and funkiness and energy!
Mavis Staples delivered an incredible concert that went from having people laughing to having them crying to simply being in awe. She not only deeply touched hearts but also opened minds while encouraging us all to continue the work that has been done and remains to be done. Absolutely a tour-de-force performance. There is only one Mavis Staples, and she still has “it” like few other artists.