Darlene Love Finds Love in Brooklyn
On a recent spring night, as concert-goers filed into their seats in Brooklyn Center’s Walt Whitman Theatre, they glanced at the stage and saw a movie screen emblazoned with the name Darlene Love in bright neon colors. Just before the legendary songstress strode out onto the stage to begin a two-hour, 17-song performance, she was introduced by the likes of David Letterman and Bruce Springsteen in a montage of film and video clips from her storied career.
Her eight-piece touring band, under the musical direction of Sheepshead Bay native Marc Ribler, began the night with several songs from the recently released Steven Van Zandt-produced album, Introducing Darlene Love. Love told Brooklyn Roads “it’s been years“ since she had played in Brooklyn and it “has grown up around me, so this is really wonderful to be able to come here and do this.” Her appreciation for performing once again in Brooklyn was apparent from the first note she sang.
The first set featured the Van Zandt-penned “Among The Believers” and “Little Liar”, co-written by Joan Jett and Desmond Child. Love then went into a moving rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “Who Under Heaven”, while a video montage of children in various parts of the world, caught up in both natural and human-made disasters, illuminated the screen behind her. She then returned to her gospel roots, with a soul-stirring version of “Marvelous” , written by Walter Hawkins.
“My father is a Pentecostal minister, so there wasn’t any rock and roll or rhythm and blues allowed to be played in my house,” Darlene Love told Brooklyn Roads about her musical beginnings. “It was later on when I went to school, that I got introduced to secular music.”
Love’s second set featured high powered 1960s “Wall of Sound” classics, such as “He’s Sure The Boy I Love”, “He’s A Rebel”, ”Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home”, and “Da Doo Ron Ron”, along with a masterful version of “River Deep, Mountain High”, which brought the crowd to its feet; the Brooklyn audience was clearly in love with Darlene Love.
Vocalists Ula Hedwig, Milton Vann and Baritone Williams voices blended perfectly with Love’s on each song, while sax player Steve Salcedo and trumpeter John Martin complemented Marc Ribler’s guitar. Keyboardists Keith Cotton and John Daley’s notes were on target throughout the night and bass player Brett Bass kept the rhythm going with drummer Tony Mason and percussionist Gary Weiss. This extraordinary synergy among the band members, Love explained, was due to the fact that she got to know all of the musicians very well. “This band was given to me by Steven Van Zandt when we recorded our latest album…most of these musicians played on the album.”
Van Zandt’s considerable production skills are undeniable on Introducing Darlene Love , which boasts over one hundred album credits; it was recorded at New York City’s Underground Garage headquarters. Musical gems abound, including “Night Closing In” and “Just Another Lonely Mile” which were written for the album by Bruce Springsteen. The Elvis Costello composition “Still Too Soon To Know” is destined to be another Love classic; it has a haunting duet with Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers.
Love told Brooklyn Roads the album title was Van Zandt’s idea, as “…I have not had a hit record since 1962…that’s almost five generations who have not heard of me… they’ve heard of me, but not really… they’ve seen me in the Lethal Weapon movies….they’ve seen me on Broadway… they’ve seen me every year for 29 years on the David Letterman Show, but still, they have not seen me actually perform with a great band…with great singers.”
Until she returns to Brooklyn for another concert, music lovers here would do well to get reintroduced to Darlene Love by getting a copy of Introducing Darlene Love.