By Michael Andre
THINK ABOUT IT: An evening with Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin opened on Thursday night at the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City to a an adoring crowd. This is Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin‘s fourth consecutive year of performing at The Grand and I hope we can enjoy her concerts for many more years.
A small intimate space greeted us as we entered the exquisite venue at the Grand. The audience sat on stage (rack seating), which made the ambiance very warm and inviting. The smoky (not offensive) smoke machines put out just the right amount of haze to make one feel that they are sitting in a jazz club in St. Louis. The only thing missing was a bottle of Hennessy and a couple glasses.
Darby-Duffin entered the stage dressed in black leather leggings, black high heel boots, and an oversized sequined top that stopped mid-thigh. Her crown and glory is the “Dee-Dee Pony”. Perfect outfit for a night of easy, feel good music. Darby-Duffin opens the first set with “This Will Be” (Natalie Cole) a great get the audience clapping motivational number. The following numbers are a nod to the 70’s which include “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Roberta Flack), “The Look of Love” (Dionne Warwick) and Theme from “Mahogany” (Diana Ross). Darby-Duffin is interactive with her audience after each number, sharing with us why she chose the repertoire she did. The next three songs are a place of comfort to Darby-Duffin, albeit painful. “An artist’s duty, as far I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”-Nina Simone. Darby-Duffin’s passion as she sings “Strange Fruit” (Billie Holiday) echoes a truth that is still relevant in 2018. Her breathy delivery as she bends notes, the emotion she conveys in each note was a master’s brushstroke of a priceless painting. Her performance of “Strange Fruit” is testament to each life that was/is/will be taken by any unjust act. The next number “Mississippi Goddam” (Nina Simone) broke the somberness of the room. An upbeat Dixieland tune still conveying the message of freedom and equality for all. Her final choice for the first set is “When We Were Young” (Adele). Three words: Sistah Can SING!
Intermission. The buzz in the room was great anticipation of what’s next.
The amazingly talented performer returned to the stage in her same attire, only exception being she turned her “Dee-Dee Pony” into a “Dee-Dee Bun”. First song of the second set, “I Know Where I’ve Been” (Hairspray–Motormouth Maybelle) doesn’t disappoint in fulfilling the anticipation of what’s to come. The phrase “take you to church” cannot compare to the raw, rip your musical soul open, gospel infused styling of Darby-Duffin. I was waiting to put my Amex in the collection plate when it came round. This is the pinnacle of the evening as she lets loose. You know how to tell the difference between an extraordinary singer and one who is mediocre? The “ugly” face. You know the kind that Patti and Aretha get when nothing matters in the world (not poise, beauty, makeup, lashes falling off, hair coming undone) except the love affair between artist and song? That is Darby-Duffin during this selection. Her “Dee-Dee Bun” fell out, no matter how much she tried to fix it, those straggling hairs were over it, owning the rest of the evening right where they were. A few selections from Dionne Warwick, Roberta Flack engulf this lucky crowd. Her final two song choices are “What the World Needs Now is Love” (Hal David/Burt Bacharach) and “Think” (Aretha Franklin) are audience participation selections. The audience was eager and joyful accommodating on both pieces. Darby-Duffin’s final song choice of “Think” removed all doubt what her abilities are as a vocal performer. I’ve heard this song sung many times by many individuals. Some okay, some requiring ear drum replacement surgery. Darby-Duffin adds funk to this arrangement to rival Sly and the Family Stone. She belts those notes out, making them sit, fetch, roll-over and beg. The beauty of a live performance are the glitches that sometimes happen, making the performance non-cookie cutter.
Her band is definitely worth mentioning. Brian Bennett (her Piano Man), David Evanoff (Drums/Musical Director/2nd Husband/Daenerys’ Dragon) we have him to thank for pushing Darby-Duffin out of her comfort zone, Mark D. Maxson (Guitar), Adam Overacker (Bass). Fantastic performance! Perfect way to spend an evening with family. I recommend seeing Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin at The Grand tonight (Fri, 1/5) or tomorrow (Saturday 1/6) and every other time she is performing in the valley. One last note. My 14-year-old was in attendance with me. As we were leaving the venue he remarked, “Thanks, Dad. She is a real treat to watch and good enough to see again.” Until that time comes: “Play me some Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin.”
The Grand Theatre presents Think About It: An evening with Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin
The Grand Theatre, 1575 South State, Salt Lake City, UT 84115
January 4-6, 2018 7:30 PM
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