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July 31, 1979 - Image 9

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1979-07-31

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The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, July 31, 1979-Page 9

Po wer]
By JOSHUA PECK
Certain musical performers have a
certain something that goes beyond
garnering a mere musical following.
Their fans form a subculture of sorts,
and periodically get together to
reminisce over great live performances
by their idol, to compare notes on
favorite recorded versions of the ar-
tist's work, to mull fondly over roman-
tic episodes conducted way back when
the performer's hits were all over the
radio, etc. Ella Fitzgerald and Glenn
Miller were two such artists during the
Swing Era, and to a large extent, Ella's
following lives on. Frank Sinatra was
another who influenced his listeners in
such a sweeping fashion. So did Elvis
during much of the last decade.
The seventies may or may not have
spawned a singer who will join the
ranks of the long remembered and
adored. It really depends on whether or
not Roberta Flack ever gets rid of that
part of her act that stands between her
and - dare I say it? - greatness.
Last Friday, Ms. Flack gave two
shows at the Power Center. The 8:00
performance, which I attended, was a
showcase for several of the numbers
that have brought Flack the tremen-
dous distance she's come so far. Her
treatment of her familiar material, like
"Reverend Lee," "Killing Me Softly,"
and "I Feel Like Making Love" cleared
up any doubts the audience might have
had about her eminent position in the
soul world. Her "Killing Me Softly" was
every bit as lovely, and perhaps a touch
more sincere, than the recorded ver-
sion. What's more, it was rounded out
by some flattering and extraordinarily
well-integrated solo work by her five-
man backup band.
REVEREND LEE," the story of a
preacher man's temptation, was
rousing, foot-stompin', even funny,
helped along by the knowing smile
Flack brought to her interpretation of
the lascivious lyrics. "The First Time
Ever I Saw Your Face" was perhaps
the most evocative and moving of the
lot, though the sensuously tuneful "I
Feel Like Makin' Love" certainly made
a bid for that distinction.
So with so much going right, what
could have been wrong? Quite a few
things, as it turned out.
One problem was the pitiful brevity of
the show. Flack first appeared at
around 8:30 after a solid half hour of
recorded music and insipid im-
provisation by the band. The singer
then did all of five songs on her own, af-
ter which she brought her special guest
(about whom more in a moment), who
did two numbers on his own and one
with Flack. The featured artist then
sang another number or two and abrup-
tly vanished from the stage, never to be
seen again, despite repeated entreaties
for an encore. Maybe a longer set would
be too much for Flack to handle with
another yet to come, but if she can't
hack it, a clear option is available; she
could do just one set (Power wasst full

ul, soulful Flack is back
anyway) and settle for a little less and soul, remarking afterwards that song that might have been good wit
moolah. his Everett Dirksen sound was the him.
A SECOND, and far more serious dif- result of too many cigarettes. He then Roberta Flack is a singe
ficulty was the intrusion of Flack's proceeded to prove it by applying the phenomenal talent masked by a fa
rightfully unknown guest, whose name very same technique to a sweet ballad of show biz foolishness. She may ye
I did not catch and do not care to know. that called for anything but gruffness of herself thought of with teary eye
After Flack raised hope that the voice. By now, the Flack lovers were sentimental sigh: "There's never
audience was about to witness the un- visibly upset, as the second show at anyone like her," they'll cluck.
veiling of an exciting, new discovery, 10:00, to which they had not been in- there hasn't - so long as she
the gentleman came out in stage, atop vited, crept ever closer. Before leaving singer and steers clear of other,
what looked to be Lucite heels. He for good(ness), the aspiring Stevie worthy roles, like those of workhor
growled out an overlong hybrid of rock Wonder joined Flack for one number a promoter.

ithout
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and
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