04.30.2018

HUB Concert Review: Deniece Williams Still Has One Of Pop Music’s Most Glorious Voices

HUB Concert Review:  Deniece Williams Still Has One Of Pop Music’s Most Glorious Voices

By Michael P Coleman

As four-time Grammy winner Deniece Williams prepared for her two sold out concerts in Oakland, she casually made a statement that, on its surface, was nearly unfathomable.

“I’m still in very good voice, and still singing in my original keys,” Williams EXCLUSIVELY said by phone.  “I can only say that it’s God who has kept me.  I do know a lot of my peers do not sound like they used to sound, and that makes me even more grateful that God has been that gracious to me.”

Back in the day, Williams’ vocal calling card was a mellifluous four octave wonder with a glass-shattering upper register, so it was hard to imagine that her amazing range wouldn’t be somewhat diminished today.  I took the legend at her word, but nonetheless said a silent prayer for her — and her fans — as I filed into Yoshi’s Saturday night. 

I filed out of the club knowing without question that God answers prayer.  Williams, who has been thrilling fans for over 40 years with a voice that almost defies description, shut it down over and over again. 

An old gospel idiom encourages singers to put pretense aside, stand “flat footed” and just sing.  The 67-year-old Williams, appearing easily 20 years younger, literally did that after opening the show with a pitch-perfect, a cappella rendition of “God Is Amazing” and asking her son Forrest, who is one of her excellent background singers, to remove her high heels.  The self described “diva” said she wanted to get comfortable. Forrest complied, as Williams continued the show!

It was the first of many hysterical moments during the efficient, 90 minute set.  At several times during the show, Williams took “communion” as she nursed a glass of red wine, each time to her fans’ riotous applause.  If the legend ever decided to make a career change, she could give comedienne Tiffany Haddish a run for her money. 

But that would deprive the world of that breathtaking voice, which was on full display Saturday night.  Williams got her fans dancing with “‘Cause You Love Me Baby” before segueing into her cover of “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle,” telling fans that she used to perform it growing up in Gary, Indiana — and losing talent shows to a pre-Motown Jackson Five! 

Williams then delivered an impassioned “Black Butterfly,” followed by an equally fervent “Free,” Williams’ breakout hit.  Williams sounded astounding. 

A consummate performer, Williams kept her fans on memory lane…and we danced down that street during her spirited “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.”  All of the aforementioned were adorned with those heavenly high notes that we counted on from Niecy.  The legend didn’t disappoint, leaving fans clamoring for more as she threw DOWN on “Silly,” closing the show. 

Throughout the concert, Williams was warm and seemed truly appreciative to the fans who have embraced her for over four decades.  It was, even with her phenomenal vocal performances, perhaps the night’s biggest surprise.  While she described herself as a “diva,” Williams came across more like your little sister who had dropped in for a far too brief visit. 

It just so happens that this sister still has one of the most glorious voices known to mankind.  Last Saturday night, Oakland welcomed her “home” with open arms and several standing ovations. 

Information on Deniece Williams is available at deniecewilliams.com.

 

 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.