Photos: Motown Records boasted that it was The Sound Of Young America: Video

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Back in the 1960’s, Motown Records boasted that it was “The Sound Of Young America.” Sixty plus years later, the sound of youth came back to the Smothers Theatre for an evening of timeless soul music.

Opening up was Martha & the Vandellas, with Martha Reeves teamed with her two sisters Delphine and Lois supported by an 8 member band including four swinging horns. Ms Reeves’ voice, a bit leathered through the years, was still able to reach the R&B inflected wails on the raucous tunes like “Love Is Like A Heat Wave” and “Nowhere to Run,” and she created rich harmonies with her sisters during the urgent “Jimmy Mack.” The band, a bit loose at times, was able to get into a groove during a tribute to Marvin Gaye during “What’s Going On” and together with the ladies got the audience on its feet with a celebratory close of “Dancing In The Streets.” The strength of the songs carried the first hour.

As Zero Mostel shouted in The Producers, “When you’ve got it, flaunt it, baby!” and Mary Wilson, while in her 70s, was resplendent in beauty, voice, energy and attitude as she sauntered on stage, armed with a king sized feathered boa and a golden toned delivery of “Love Child” to open her riveting 70 minute set.

Backed by her own band that was tighter than Kim Kardashian’s leggings, Ms. Wilson mixed hits from her days with the Supremes (“I ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ those songs all the way to the bank, baby!” she joked) which included a sensuous “Reflections” and sparkling medley of “You Can’t Hurry Love/Back In My Arms Again” while having members of the packed house jump up on stage to join in for a fun filled “Baby Love.”

But it wasn’t just a night of nostalgia, as Wilson showed she has moved forward in her career. A glistening ballad with her guitarist produced a dreamy “Fields of Gold” while she got all out sassy and out-turned Tina on a foot stomping and rollicking “Bad Case.” Strong in delivery, yet exuding vulnerability, she brought down the house with voice as clear as Clifford Brown’s trumpet on a gripping aria “I’m Changing” displaying passion with every syllable.

Getting swampy with the band, Wilson dug deep and got red clay under her fingernails for a boogalooing Rolling Stones tribute on “Satisfaction/Brown Sugar” and closed the evening glowing like a disco ball on the celebrative “Last Dance.”

For this evening, this Dreamgirl vocalist showed that she is still the Supreme Singer of the ages.

Upcoming shows at the Smothers Theatre include Shawn Colvin 10/11, Lizz Wright 10/12, Herb Alpert & Lani Hall 10/22 and Tommy Emmanuel 01/17-18

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