The Donna Summer Tribute Site

Jones Beach 

July 9, 2005

Donna Summer possesses, unequivocally, one of the greatest voices in popular music.  Her appearance at Jones Beach on Saturday evening proved that true artists are comfortably adept with a variety of musical styles.  Donna served up a delicious feast of her beloved hits, sprinkling in some fan favorites, and offering intimate stories behind songs that have inspired her over the years.  Whether breathing new life into oft-performed standards such as “Smile” and “The Man I Love” or vamping through “Bad Girls” and “Hot Stuff,” Donna held the audience at Jones Beach in the palm of her hand.

Imagine a cool July evening just after sunset, a stage set on the water, white satin draped above a glittering piano secured on a raised platform with a gigantic strobe light floating in the air.  Picture Donna standing center stage, long black evening gown slit to her right knee, the breeze dreamily flowing through her cascading locks during “Once Upon at Time.” Her head tilted back, eyes closed when holding the “you” in “I Love You.”  The setting was nothing short of magical for a woman who’s been absent from gracing the stage with her remarkable voice for far too long.  She more than made up for that absence on Saturday night.

Herein are some personal highlights from “An Evening with Donna Summer”:

NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN

The most revelatory number of the evening insofar as Donna has a very personal history with this song dating back to her early days living in Germany. Cloaked in a white pant suit, Donna sang in her lower register, giving the melody a particular dramatic quality that is remarkably stronger than the Moody Blues original.  This is a song that must be committed to record sooner than later. (I already hear the club mix.)

COLD LOVE

Because The Wanderer album was my formal introduction to Donna Summer nearly 25 years ago, this song has a very special place in my heart.  I never thought I’d ever hear Donna sing a song from that album; it was such thrill to hear those familiar power chords on Saturday night that I stood up and sang along. (I think I was in the minority though since nearly everyone in the first or second row remained in their seats.  Perhaps telling the story behind “Cold Love” or The Wanderer would have erased the question marks on some faces…)

(YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE) A NATURAL WOMAN

Prefacing that classic opening line – “Looking out on the morning rain…” – Donna told an amusing story about how she first became aware of this song. It’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Aretha (or Carole King) performing “Natural Woman,” but Donna sealed it with her distinctive vocal stamp.  The “slow to fast” build that is the trademark of Donna’s hits was craftily applied to “Natural Woman” to great effect. Another cover that would (will?) receive many repeat listens on my stereo….

DIM ALL THE LIGHTS

I hadn’t ever seen Donna perform this song in concert – it’s my absolute favorite song by Donna and I just have to thank her for including it in the set list!

Though I’ve singled out four songs, each song was performed with verve and vivacity: “MacArthur Park” was spine-tingling, “No More Tears” was a scintillating duet with Mary, the “My Man Medley” was a cocktail of camp and class, “Could It Be Magic” was, indeed, magic.

I’d love to see Donna bring this show to the Beacon Theater or Radio City (or Carnegie Hall) since I know many Manhattan-ites who love the diva but aren’t enthusiastic about the trek on Long Island Rail Road. Perhaps next time around…It is my hope that the success “An Evening with Donna Summer” signals frequent returns to the stage and lays the groundwork for a new album that truly reflects the range of Donna’s unparalleled and ever-expanding talents. 

- Christian Wikane, NY

It’s hard for me to write my opinion of the Jones Beach concert because it’s evident that Donna put a lot of effort in making the show different and to spicing it up. I don't want to seem negative but maybe a little constructive criticism might help. Truth is, some things worked, some didn't. It's a given that Donna always sounds incredible but there's so many simple things that could make the show better. For years, no matter how talented the musicians in the band may be, the sound is always horrible. It sounds like a wedding band. I've seen so many artists in concert in my life and Donna's sound is consistently the worst I've ever heard. That's probably why I enjoy it when she does ballads- less music so you hear the purity of that voice. 

As for the show itself, I enjoyed the first half the most. You would think that the older, more disco songs like "Once Upon A Time", "I Love You" and "Could It Be Magic" would be the songs Donna would rush through without much thought or effort. It was on these songs however that Donna shined. Close-ups of her face were on big screens on both sides of the stage. Not only did she sound great but she gave the songs so much expression that she looked 25 again. Each frame on the big screen looked like a classic album cover complete with her head back and that gorgeous smile. I loved it. The strings and horns also made it sound beautiful.

“My Man Medley” was as campy as ever and Donna sounded great here as well. I really didn't care much for "Nights In White Satin" though. It's not that she didn't sound good, it's just that she sang it in such a low key that it lacked power. Very monotone. "Natural Woman" was better but to me it was unnecessary when you consider she has such a great catalog of ballads I'd rather hear like "There Will Always Be A You", "Can't We Just Sit Down", "On My Honor", "Forgive Me" etc. I did really enjoy “Smile”. Her rendition of such a simple song was just amazing. I got a little choked up.

The hits like “No More Tears”, “She Works Hard For The Money”, “On The Radio”, “MacArthur Park” and “Dim All The Lights” were all there and Donna sounded beautiful on all of them. I didn't like the fact that Donna started “Dim All The Lights” without the slow intro. It started with a simple disco beat and then Donna just jumps in with the first verse. It took a minute for the audience to realize what song it was. It definitely would have had more impact had she done the intro.

After over 25 years, I still don't understand why Donna rushes through the 2 biggest hits of her career- “Bad Girls” and “Hot Stuff”. She won a Grammy for her performance of “Hot Stuff” and for good reason. I think those songs deserve more effort in their music and vocal performance. Her vocals on those two songs on record are two of her best. Lots of attitude and power. In concert both songs are performed at what seems like twice the speed of the original recordings and Donna relies on her background singers for the chorus (even though you can barely hear the backgrounds in concert on any songs despite Mary and Yvonne being great singers- they are always too low in the mix). On the other hand, “Cold Love” sounds better than the record. She really rocks that one.

“Last Dance” was, as usual, awesome. I’ll never get tired of hearing it.

After she finished the song, I just knew that there would be an encore. I was just as sure that it would be “Love To Love You” since I waited 25 years to hear it and heard she was doing it again. I was wrong. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was not to hear it. Same goes for “Heaven Knows”, “I Feel Love” and “Try Me”. I know she has to change the concert up to keep it fresh but there's no reason to leave these songs out and then do three cover songs instead. Besides the show was only 1 hour and 20 minutes (despite rumors that she was now doing 2 hours). You can’t squeeze in another 15 minutes to do these classics- especially in New York, arguably her biggest market in the world. A good way to fit them in would be to cut down on the Vegas shtick that seems to precede almost every song. I did like the “twins” story and when Donna talks off the cuff she really is charming and funny. When she brought two kids on stage to sing “On The Radio”, they froze
e and couldn't sing. When she finished, she said “Let’s give them a hand. It’s scary up here. We scared them half out of their wits. "Don't worry guys. I won’t bite. I don't eat children!”" It was hilarious. She also seemed to be the happiest I've ever seen her. Smiles from ear to ear.

As far as wardrobe. Loved the white outfit. It's a great look for her. Very elegant and flattering. Also the hair/wig was the best yet. She looked beautiful.

Overall, how can you not enjoy a Donna Summer concert. Donna herself is just amazing vocally and a unique God given gift. I just wish that there were people around her who could work to make the show tight and professional so that it flows better and showcases her talent better. Then Donna could just be Donna, walk out there and blow the roof off the joint. In the end, we’re there to see and hear her and she always delivers despite the distractions. Now, let’s get crackin’ on a new CD!

- Greg,  New York City

i´m a spanish boy, my name is noe and i was last saturday in the jones beach concert. i can almost say that i traveled to ny to see donna for first time. it could sound strange but i´ve been her fan since 1979 and i never seen her live. i didn´t expect much but i have to say that was incredible. donna rock the house. the theatre was almost completed (i think that could be around 5.000 persons there), her voice sound perfect and everything went very right. she invited to the scenery two little children who have that their birthday to sing on the radio. the rest of the concert was like the others with the same songs. donna was very funny and did a lot of jokes. one of them saying to her husband that he is very lucky "to wake up with me every morning", and others talking about the wind that was present in the first part of the show. Even at 4 pm there was an incredible rain that fortunately only last half and hour because i thought that it will be cancelled. donna change the clothes around three times.

sorry my english it´s not very good.

- Noe

What can I say about Jones Beach that I haven't already said about Boston or Atlantic City?  The set list was the same as the other two shows.  I had hoped that we might get to hear the Try Me/ Love To Love You medley - but there just wasn't time.  I spent the evening sitting right next to a security guard, and I heard him telling people that Jones Beach wanted Donna to finish by 10:10 - and they were already starting late.  (I know that time might sound arbitrary to a lot of you, but there were a lot of fans there from New York City and they needed to be able to catch the train to get back home.  Here on Long Island, mass transit is almost non-existent so the busses and trains stop running fairly early - especially since Jones Beach isn't near a major railroad hub. And don't even think about catching a cab!  LOL)

I was sitting in section C row G which I thought was the 7th row.  But I had forgotten about the curve of the theater.  When I took my seat, the curve had transformed row G to the very front row - but all the way off to the side. I was literally seated next to the water, which meant that I really got blasted by the wind for awhile!  Fortunately I learned my lesson in Boston and I was prepared for it.  

Now I know front row sounds really cool - and I was excited about that....... for about 5 seconds.  I took my seat and looked at the stage set and realized that there was a huge bank of speakers in front of me. (They looked lovely and seemed very relaxed on stage though.......   LOL  ) So I could only see one side of the stage set and that was it. I checked out the big screen, and that was over my head on the other side - so looking at that was painful for my 40+ year old neck.  Ouch!   It made me REALLY happy that I had seen the show in other venues because I literally could not see Donna's entrance, the My Man Medley, or the first part of Enough Is Enough.  (I got to see her exit though because some people near us left right before Last Dance and I got to move closer.) Everything was fine when Donna was center stage though, and I could hear everything just fine - so it's all good.

I've always known that Donna has a wide range of fans, but the show the other night really drove that home for me.  In Atlantic City, there was a kid who was probably about 10 and he was dancing like a fiend to all the hits.  But at Jones Beach there was an elderly couple seated behind me - they looked like the kind of people you run into at a casino who always tell the fans in front of them to sit down. But they weren't!  They were having as much fun as everyone else - the gentleman was even waving his cane in the air in time to the music.  I want to be like that when I grow up!

- Cathy, the Long Island insane asylum (aka website HQ)

First of all, what a dramatic entrance! In true diva form. But I have to agree with Greg from New York City. Donna’s concert was much too short. Her covers were excellent and she should think about recording them at some point but I would have preferred a longer concert with “Love To Love You Baby”, plus so many of her other hits. I was amazed that everyone was on their feet from the second she came on. There appeared to be 12,000 to 13,000 people in this audience (not 5,000). She was charming the audience and looked gorgeous! She looked like “Donna Summer “ except for a few extra pounds here and there. She really did look beautiful up on the monitors and I got a sense that she knew it too. She looked a lot better than her recent television appearances. Her voice had a rich fullness to it. It was very strong and clear. She had lots of sexy long black hair blowing in the wind. I was very impressed to hear her sound even better than she did on her records. Even the man sitting next to me felt a little cheated by saying that she should have sung at least 3 more songs. It was his first Donna concert and he was expecting her to do 3 encores judging by the audience’s enthusiasm – but me being a long time fan knew that “Last Dance” would be the final song. And frankly, I loved her husband’s singing voice and even enjoyed his song but I would have preferred more of Donna given the shortness of this concert. Her sister’s monologue proceeding “No More Tears” was also much too long. It also appeared as if her opening act comedian was asked to stay an additional 15 minutes on stage. I don’t know what the delay was but it would have made for extra concert time. Maybe Donna was waiting for it to get darker? This created a very long gap between the time the comedian finished and the time Donna came on stage. The purpose of a comedian is to warm up the crowd. To get them excited. But we all just sat there for what seemed to be another 30 minutes waiting for the diva’s entrance. At the end of the concert after the lights went up I noticed a row of at least 10 girls who appeared to be under 25 years of age singing all of her hits. I was surprised that they knew so many of the songs and all the words! It was also ironic since they sang many of the songs Donna didn’t and was reflective of the need for more. Now, listening to these songs on her new site DonnaSummer.com, it’s very apparent that Donna has to release a full album. It’s quite evident by listening to some of these teasers that she has more radio hits up her sleeveless gown. 

- Ben, NJ

[Editor's note:  there were some technical difficulties caused when sound check got rained out thanks to an afternoon monsoon. You can read a little about that at NathanDigesare.com]

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