EVEN after 64 years at the gospel coalface, spreading a conscious social message and calling power and evil to account in her family group the Staples Singers, the marvellous and mighty Mavis Staples retains a mischievous streak, playing up her advancing years to make it look like she wasn’t too sure where she had landed on this latest tour stop, before unleashing her throaty laugh on “Glasgow, Scotland”.
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“I know where I am – I’m just messing with y’all!” she teased.
Such good humour was balanced with an empathetic authority and a strong nurturing streak, evident from the moment she delivered the perennially wise words – “love is the only transportation to where there’s total communication” – of the utopian If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me).
Her stated aim to bring “love, joy, inspiration and positive vibrations” was confirmed by the broad smiles of her audience, the formation shimmying on the sidelines and lusty appreciation of both her rhythmic vocal interplay with her backing vocalists Vicki “Squeaky” Randle and Donny “The Deacon” Gerrard (Staples’s sister Yvonne was missing from the group due to ill health) and the precision-tooled playing of her band, which was infused with hurt-so-good blues flavour and lashings of that elusive “feel”.
Lean and funky covers of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth and Talking Heads’ Slippery People, a meaty Respect Yourself and the soothing balm of You Are Not Alone were among the tastiest morsels in a varied set which was truly good for the soul.