Darlene Love, with Bryan Adams, sings "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on The View.
“Ain’t no one like Marvin Gaye,” Darlene Love announced midway into Saturday’s second night of her annual New York Christmas shows, this year at new Times Square venue Sony Hall. She then saluted Gaye, one of the legion of great singers she sang backup for at one point or other in her own great singing career, with two of his Ashford-Simpson classics “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
Projected on a screen above the stage was a black-and-white photo of Love, with her ‘60s vocal trio The Blossoms, singing backup for Gaye--presumably on the TV music show Shindig!, where they were the house backing group. Earlier, the evening began with a modern rock version of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” proceeding, as ever, to include Love’s songs from the famous 1963 holiday music album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (“White Christmas,” “Marshmallow World” and “Winter Wonderland”) as well as secular Spector hits that she sang lead on (“He’s a Rebel” with The Crystals, “Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry” as herself).
She also sang two songs associated with Steven Van Zandt: “Among the Believers,” which he wrote for Love’s acclaimed 2015 Introducing Darlene Love album (which he also produced), and “All Alone on Christmas,” which he wrote for and she sang on the 1992 Home Alone 2: Lost in New York soundtrack. Her deep gospel roots were brought to the surface via Walter Hawkins’ “Marvelous,” also on Introducing Darlene Love.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, who was one of the stars of 20 Feet from Stardom (the 2013 documentary about backup singers), remains exceedingly generous to her own backup trio, with Milton Vann, the one male, delivering a stirring “O Holy Night“ during a brief wardrobe change in which she replaced her Christmas-red one-shoulder dress to a black one.
Vann, incidentally, was one of the few veterans in a new band (another, saxophonist Crispin Cioe, has performed with Love for 30-plus years) that perfectly captures Spector’s wall-of-sound productions as well as those of her succeeding producers.
Love closed, of course, with “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” her enduring song from the Spector Christmas album, and the only one written expressly for it. Hailed as the greatest Christmas song ever by David Letterman, who made her performance of it an annual Christmas tradition on his Late Show, she had sung it earlier in the week on her new holiday home, The View.
“Holidays start early, but go [by] so fast,” Love remarked wistfully before leaving the stage. The good thing is, she’ll be back soon enough (she’s actually back at Sony Hall on Jan. 6), for there ain’t no one like Darlene Love.