|Donna Does Detroit
As I pulled into Sterling Heights's Freedom Hill Park, the long line of cars to get into the venue got my heart pumping. A welcoming sign reading "Freedom Hill Welcomes Donna Summer" greeted attendees as they entered. The crowd was very mixed, but definitely a 35-55 age group seem to dominate. As Summer's band began to play a medley of some of her biggest hits, the crowd was brought to attention awaiting the legendary singer.
Different from so many of her previous opening concert songs— hmmm, and let's see this was like my twelfth Summer show — her opening was not MacArthur Park. Instead, Summer opted for "She Works Hard For The Money" and the crowd quickly sprang to their feet. Summer looked good! She has lost weight and the outfits, — although they did show her figure and backside explicitly — seemed to work for her.
Memories of my youth flooded in my head as Summer sang "Once Upon A Time" introducing the song saying "I wrote this for my little girl, who now has two little girls of her own. My how time flies." That's for sure. How many of us remember "Mimi's song" from the "Live" album.
Mimi's mom was in a playful mood and enjoyed the crowd. Ever since the Hammerstein Ballroom performance in New York in 1999, it seems like she is accepting and enjoying her role as a "spectacle" of the world. Her word not mines.
She segued into "I Love You" and repeatedly told the crowd that was exactly how she really felt. It was great to hear that classic live.
"Today started out badly and everything that could have gone wrong did," Summer told the Detroit crowd. "And I bit into a piece of toast this morning and yep, I broke a tooth. Luckily, there was a really good dentist who patched me up..." and she gave credit to the "magician" of a dentist saying, "it was like magic." (Anyone else hear this story at other venues?) She then gave her ever-stirring rendition of Barry Manilow’s "Could This Be The Magic."
And one point the ever-humble Summer said, "When contemplating whether or not I should go on tour, you sometimes wonder if anyone will come and see you." And with those words the crowd again stood on their feet and gave her a standing ovation bringing tears to her eyes. Why the woman with three platinum-double albums and five #1 hits question her staying power? I can only guess, but the crowd responded in a big way.
Next, Summer's rendition of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" brought tears to my eyes as she spoke of her father's illness last November, while she was touring in Uruguay. "Sometimes you have to continue to "smile" to just get through the show (while her heart was breaking)," she explained. Andrew Gaines died in December of 2004.
An explanation was in order to all those who never quite understood the meaning of a little ditty called "MacArthur Park." "You wouldn't leave an uncooked cake out in the rain, now would you," said Summer. "Just like you wouldn't leave your man by himself in a closed room with Angelina Jolie... This is what the song is about, a love affair that is not withstanding." I was thrilled to hear her sing the long-extended version singing "There will be another song for me, and I will sing it."
Two highlights were Summer's tribute to Aretha Franklin and The Beatles. "Natural Woman," showed Summer's vocal ability is right up there (if not better than) the "Queen of Soul," while an a cappella "With A Little Help From My Friends" had the crowd singing along with the "Queen of Disco."
Oh, and I have to mention the "On the Radio" stint. Like previous years when Summer called up select members of the audience to sing the chorus, five Detroit starlets, showed that white girls could dance (if not sing). The Freedom Hill crowd was in for a real treat as "Ms. I want to dance on Broadway" realized this was her one shining moment — her one shot — to "wow" the crowd. Unbeknownst to Summer, this girl in her red sequined shirt, took off with her sexy, sleazy spins and "throw back of the head" Fame TV dance routine trying to steal the show right from under the evening’s star. Forget the chorus, "shoot, "I want to live forever, " was what her exaggerated impromptu performance belted out. It was absolutely hilarious! Summer did mention that the five "would-be- starlets" would be on her new website later that evening at
Summer also mentioned she had a new song released on itunes this week, entitled "I Got Your Love." And I actually thought she was going to sing it because she announced this was a " specialty" of the night, but then the band played three seconds of what was "Nights in White Satin." Summer cut them off and they then began "Cold Love" from her "Wanderer" album. Although I was disappointed she excluded the former song, it was great to hear the latter, and she sounded just like on the recording after nearly 25 years.
"Dim All The Lights," "Bad Girls," and "Hot Stuff" were not as rushed as I have heard them in previous years and the crowd really loved these favorites. They of course received the most cheers, while the rendition of "My Man Medley," although very theatrical, was a bit drowned out by the band.
As Donna said goodnight, my thoughts like most of her shows was that it was way too short and went by too fast, but hey that's how one feels when Summer has them captured in the throngs of her magical, mystical, hot summer nights. As inconsiderate early birds started leaving for their cars, it was hilarious to watch them run to a small viewing area in the isle-way once they heard the familiar opening of Summer's swan song "Last Dance." Us saner fans began to sway back and forth as the Freedom Hill Fairy began to sprinkle nostalgic love dust throughout the venue. For a brief moment I closed my eyes and it really felt like it was 1978 all over again and I was in a movie theater watching "Thank God It's Friday," beginning my love affair with this American Icon.
As she stepped up onto the piano prop that held the lifting mechanism, she raised her arm after belting the final "Tonight," and slowly was lowered down into the stage and into another historical performance.
Donna Summer had everyone on their feet, reliving that special moment of their "last chance" to see her belt out a song that clearly exemplifies a happy time in their youth. Will there be a next time? Maybe not for some, but like Summer said, "If God's willing, I'll be back next year." Me too Donna Summer, me too!
Our girl indeed made a spectacle of herself, and tonight she was brilliant!
- A Friend Unknown
|A Stunning Sterling Summer!
Last night at the outdoor venue in Sterling Heights (Michigan), Donna Summer soared! No matter what, 110% comes from her explosive gift of song, beauty, voice and personality. It was a time of hit after hit after hit, showing just how timeless she is, and will forever be. Though a few cover-songs were added for good measure along will an intimate moment with Bruce; Donna proved that she has nothing to prove. She is loved and she is in control.
Before I continue on allow me to give the prerequisite information that everyone desires to always know. She looked magnificent! Her hair, make-up, jewels, clothes and voice simply stated class. Jet black long flowing hair accentuated by "diamonds" on her wrist, fingers and clothes were a sight to behold. She presented us with 4 outfit changes; a black overflowing pant-suit type, an black elegant off the shoulder evening gown, a white silk overflowing pant-suit type and a last outfit like the first. Her stage setup was huge! Tall staircases resembling the keys of a piano coming from a white glittering piano while she was surrounded by her musicians and a beautiful, colorful, ever-changing backdrop with a change at one point to resemble a moment in time from the 40's when she sang atop the (Bruce's) piano as a torch singer. Needless to say, she was in top form, intimate and ever playful with all of us. (I do want to add a side-note in regards to her lighting & effects; I have never seen anything so interesting, beautiful, artistic and synchronized. A wonderful addition to behold. Amazing.) As for the 'family band' made up of Bruce, Nathan, Mary and more, the sound and voice they produced was purely alive, vibrant and sensational.
Her set included:
Overture Medley, She Works Hard for the Money (where she seemed to come up out of the piano high above towering over us all), Once Upon a Time (she explained how it was written for Mimi), I Love You (dedicated to all of us), *then she spoke of breaking her tooth during breakfast Sunday and having to have it fixed before the show!*, Could it be Magic, MacArthur Park (she explained the meaning of the song), Smile (she spoke of her Dad), Dim All the Lights, I Get by With a Little Help From my Friends (very cool, seemingly accapella), On the Radio (with the complimentary pick of folks from the audience, of which 3 of the 5 women really were trying to dance, seriously, it was uproarious, and one lady was trying to 'sangh' with -or was it against- Donna, to which Donna just stood back with a hand on a hip and even let her have her mic for a moment!), You Make me Feel Like a Natural Women (great cover version, faster!), Bruce's Cafe, My Man medley, Enough is Enough, Cold Love, Bad Girls, Hot Stuff, and then Last Dance (started with a violin virtuoso, unique and she went back down in as she first came out, impressive!). Almost two hours worth! Nice, nice, nice! At one point the whole place just erupted in applause in response to her while she was talking and she received a long standing ovation from this large packed-out crowd, to which she went and got Kleenex and wiped her eyes. Very endearing. You can imagine what is going to happen with all of her new work that is sure to come! While we may not know for sure exactly what God and she may have planned, I can tell you she is still a force to be reckoned with.
Sitting with me were three ladies of whom it was their very first Summer concert. One of them was our friend Irene. She was simply in awe. She seemed to go from not knowing how to clap with she was taking it all in and sing and scream and enjoy and just be a part of it all. (We were able to take some pics, if they come out well, Cathy will get them.)
It's always a wonder to behold for Dian and I to see Donna and family, and bittersweet after our time together, waiting for another privileged opportunity to be together once again. But I have to say, we so admire Donna's tenacity, her faith, her raw emotion and for the strength to share her life with (all of) us. She truly is an inspiration for the heart and soul. Thank you Mrs. Sudano! May we some day do some baking together and sing a song after dinner. Hugs!
- Mark K, Traverse City
|I tried to get in to see Donna before the show but she was running late and wasn't seeing anybody.
It turns out that she broke her tooth while eating breakfast Sunday morning. She then had to scramble all day Sunday trying to find a local dentist to fix her tooth. (On a Sunday morning at that!) She finally got her tooth fixed just in time to get ready for the show.
She explained to everyone during the show how her day had gone with the tooth and everything, but she was still in great spirits.
Singing to a sold out crowd of over 5,000 people, the night was warm and ready for Donna's first Detroit area appearance in almost 8 years.
The show itself was much more than I had ever expected. It was like the old days during the "Live & More" and "Hot Stuff" tour. She came with a complete orchestra, in addition to her regular band. She even sang some of her old sets.
She also sang Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" song and dedicated it to her father. By the time she was done there was hardly a dry eye in the place.
One of the high points was when she picked 5 girls from the audience to sing backup on "On the Radio" with her. One of the girls really got into it and Donna just handed her the microphone, let her sing lead and Donna joined the backup girls. The crowd just roared with approval.
By the end of the night the crowd was on their feet and really getting into it. The night closed out with 5,000+ people singing "Last Dance" to Donna's lead.
She thanked everyone for attending and she said that God willing, she would see everyone again next year.
It's great to see Donna back. I hope she makes it back and doesn't wait another eight years to return, because Detroit loves Donna!