12.15.2018

HUB REVIEW: Holiday Soul with Vanessa Williams, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, and the San Francisco Symphony

By Michael P Coleman

I attended the second of a two night engagement at Davies Hall Saturday night, as Vanessa Williams joined forces with the San Francisco Symphony and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir for a weekend of holiday cheer.

The Choir’s first half of the concert was excellent, with highlights being a stirring rendition of “Silent Night,” two distinct takes on the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, and a traditional spiritual, “Lord, How Come Me Here” that had the entire house silenced one second and enraptured the next.

After a brief intermission Williams took over, strutting on stage in a striking blue dress that was more than befitting a diva.  Launching into “Dreaming,” the 55-year-old phenomenon effortlessly delivered pitch-perfect performances of her own hits and holiday classics, as she revisited highlights of her legendary career.

It wasn’t surprising that Williams saved her signature song, “Save The Best For Last,” for the end of the show.  It was surprising that she sang it, and everything else, so very well.  Her voice has lost none of its warmth, depth, range, or beauty over her three decades as a recording artist.

sweetestday williamsOther highlights were the inclusion of more obscure songs from Williams’ impressive catalog, including “Constantly” from her The Sweetest Days collection and “Love Is,” performed with her music director, Rob Mathes, standing in for Brian McKnight.  No one missed McKnight; Williams and Mathes were magic together.  

Williams ended the show with a rousing, Baptist church-worthy “Rise Up Shepherd And Follow” with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.  They left us, like every great performer does, wanting more. 

Hats off to the San Francisco Symphony for their commitment to presenting programs that bring all of Christmas’ best together on one stage.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s Holiday Soul event. 

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 Connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com, of follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP