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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Darlene Love's expanded Christmas show doubles the love

Darlene performs her classic "Christmas Baby Please Come Home" with Bryan Adams last year on "The View"

Darlene Love always does a great job mixing her Christmas classics with her non-holiday hits and other fare at her annual Christmas show, but her current edition, as evidenced Dec. 2 at Manhattan’s Sony Hall, is her best yet.

Sure she starts out with “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Marshmallow World,” the latter from the landmark 1963 A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector album, following it with a pair of secular Spector gems in “Wait ‘til My Bobby Gets Home,” on which she sang lead, and “Da Doo Ron Ron.”

And she continues with Christmas songs (“White Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland”—also from the Spector album—and “Home Alone on Christmas,” which Steve Van Zandt wrote for her and which she sang on the Home Alone 2: Lost in New York soundtrack) and other Spector hits including “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” and the No. 1 “He’s a Rebel,” which she sang lead with The Crystals. She also made room for “Among the Believers,” which Van Zandt wrote for her terrific and ironically titled 2015 album Introducing Darlene Love.

But instead of one long set, this time around Love breaks her Christmas show into two parts.

The first was marked by “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” for which Love, the biggest name in the Oscar-winning 2013 documentary about backup singers 20 Feet from Stardom, yielded the spotlight to her own estimable backups Milton Vann, Sheherazade Holman and Keesha Gumbs. Vann followed with a stunning solo on “O Holy Night” and a beautiful duet with Love on Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and the Righteous Brothers’ “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.”

Always generous with her singers, Love led them in the show’s second-part high point “Lean on Me”—the Bill Withers classic that she sang so prominently in 20 Feet from Stardom. Referring to her singers as a “cheering squad,” she noted, “We cheer each other on, and sometimes you have to excuse us for getting so emotional with each other.”

Sure enough, a return to Love’s gospel roots with Walter Hawkins’ uplifting “Marvelous” ended with an intense group hug, and was followed by the obvious closer, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”—her enduring hit from the Spector Christmas album.

Incidentally, Love has a major role in the new Netflix Christmas comedy Holiday Rush—and she urged people to watch it on the streaming service. As it was an understandably older crowd, she advised all to get their kids to show them how to view the movie on their phones.



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