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Mary Wilson

Mary Wilson
Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, February 16, 2018

The Mary Wilson revue rolled in to Feinstein’s for a couple of sold out shows, delivering the goods her fans have come to expect – a smattering of personal favorites and of course, a healthy dollop of Supremes numbers to get the crowds riled up. Wilson’s been in the business since the late 50’s and she knows how to work a crowd, wisely choosing material that plays well to her husky alto range.

Opening with a jazzy rendition of “What’s New?”, Bob Haggart and Johnny Burke’s casual conversation between ex-lovers, Wilson was accompanied by longtime music director Mark Zier who led the musicians and backup singers Parnell Marcano and Lucy Shropshire. Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “The Look of Love” followed, showcasing Wilson’s sensual side.

A medley of Supreme’s hits followed; “Love Child” (Frank Wilson, Pam Sawyer, Deke Richards, Henry Cosby, R. Dean Taylor Berry Gordy) , “My World is Empty Without You” and “Reflections” (Holland–Dozier–Holland).  These songs helped define an era and the audience response is electric.  Wilson muses on the musical play and film of Dreamgirls, denying the content is about the Supremes. She notes humorously that she knows its not about her cause “she didn’t get paid”. She did quite well on her own autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, her 1986 bestseller. Turnabout’s fair play.

Wilson picks up steam and vocal strength on a nice cover of Nora Jones’ triple-Grammy winner “Don’t Know Why” (Jessie Harris), and my personal fave, “Here’s to Life,” Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary’s jazzy autumnal number about accepting the passage of time.  Shirley Horn’s signature song must be integral to the singer and at 74, Wilson has the cache to own this tune. Now decades after the untimely death of fellow Supreme Florence Ballard, Wilson honors her with Dreamgirl Effie White’s “I Am Changing”, which was inspired by Ballard. Without the youthful higher range on Jennifer Hudson, Wilson makes up for it in mature, seasoned honesty. On the same note, Wilson, who participated in a tribute to the great Lena Horne lends “Stormy Weather” (Harold Arlen /Ted Koehler) the same authenticity and sincerity.

Back to the Supremes goldmine, Wilson pulls out “Baby Love” and “Stop! In the Name of Love” (Holland-Dozier-Holland) before settling in on the lovely Johnny Bristol, Jackey Beavers, and Harvey Fuqua  #1 hit “Someday We’ll Be Together”. Donna Summer’s disco smash “Last Dance” gives Wilson a chance to have some fun, just prior to closing her set with John Lennon’s wistfully optimistic plea “Imagine”. Wilson believes his lyrics are just as poignant and relevant now as in 1970. There’s something very comfortable about a Mary Wilson show; she’s a seasoned pro who can work a small room and deliver the goods. She’s having fun out there and that translates onto her fans, who will keep coming back for more.

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