By Michael P Coleman

I try to keep it real, so in that spirit, I reject the headline above.  Superstar Paula Abdul’s performance at the Gallo Center for the Arts last night was more of a spectacle than a concert per se.  The lady is a brilliant, underrated performer in the grandest sense.

The performance was a multi media presentation, incorporating a massive, interactive video screen and world-class lighting effects to help Abdul walk fans through the variety of stages of her career.  With the help of a half-dozen or so riveting dancers, and enough dizzying costume changes to make Diana Ross pea green with envy (I lost count at 15), Abdul displayed a level of showmanship that not many of her MTV-era peers ever had — let alone still possess, some thirty years into a career. 

That’s not to say that Abdul didn’t sing all of the hits fans wanted to hear.  She opened the show with a searing version of “The Way That You Love Me,” one of the many #1 singles from her debut album, 1988’s Forever Your Girl.  From the beginning of the evening and throughout the show, the singer showcased vocals that were far stronger than she’s often given credit for.  During that opening song, one of Abdul’s dancers assisted her in a full, 360 degree, head-over-heels pinwheel spin, to astonished gasps from the audience. 

Maybe we were worried for Abdul, having heard of her fall from the stage early in this Straight Up Paula! tour.  We worried for naught; Abdul is in excellent shape — rare form, in fact — and that spectacular spin was the first of the night’s several jaw-dropping stunts.  She ended “Straight Up,” toward the end of the show, with a daring swan dive from atop a 20 feet tall ladder, as the stage dramatically went dark.

tinypaulaSeconds later, the petite star (she’s five feet tall on a good day and in three inch heels!) rocked the Gallo Center with a rambunctious version of “Forever Your Girl,” sincerely thanking the crowd for what she’d repeatedly called a “blessed” life. 

From the beginning of her career, as an unlikely Laker Girl turned pop superstar, Abdul has been a walking, talking, singing, dancing, choreographing, acting, talent show-hosting set of surprises.  And at 56 years old, she’s still got a few tricks up that sequined sleeve.  After enduring 15 spinal surgeries over a number of years, she gave the best show I’ve seen this year, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. 

Paula Julie Abdul may “just be here for the music,” in the words of one of her later hits, but she sure as hell managed to turn last night’s Gallo Center audience on.  I have attended many shows there over the years, and I have never experienced that level of energy and enthusiasm among people walking back to their cars after a concert.

There I go with that word again: concert.  That word is much too small even for the diminutive Abdul.  Last night’s show, like the star herself, was a phenomenon. 

Information on Abdul’s Straight Up Paula! tour is at  

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


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