Early Halloween with some soul at Hempstead Hall

'Masters' bring famous performers, Motown hits to life

By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
With plenty of costumes. fun and recognizable characters, it seemed appropriate that Saturday night’s performance of “Masters of Soul” was happening the weekend before Halloween at Hempstead Hall.
A three-man, three-female ensemble cast backed by a five-piece band brought a steady stream of 60s and 70s era artists to life in a brisk moving two-hour show before an estimated Hope crowd of 365, mostly alternating between male and female acts.
First up, ironically, was a bold outing of a group already familiar to Hempstead Hall as the Masters version of the Temptations took the stage, matching suits and all, and belted out the Temps signature hit “My Girl” without missing a beat.
From there, the talented signing cast presented a roll call reading like a Motown Hall of Fame with renditions of the Supremes featuring Diana Ross, the Four Tops, Martha and Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrel, Barry White, Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, the Rev. Al Green, Sam & Dave (Samuel Moore and David Prater), Diana Ross (solo), Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner, Donna Summer, and Gladys Knight and the Pips.
Many greatest hits were there as well as nostalgic movie score, Shaft, from the long ago movie of the same name, performed in 70s style by “Isaac Hayes.”
With so many artists and such a wide timeline of music and style, some accommodations were obviously made. The Masters version of “Tina Turner,” for example, presented Turner in her early 1970s style as she sang “Proud Mary,” which of course, was very different than the equally revered Tina Turner of mid-80s “Thunderdome” era.
The 1979 “Diana Ross” as a solo artist was presented in a big-haired glamour as she belted out “I’m Coming Out,” in contrast, with a more subtle 1965 “Diana” shown early in the show with “The Supremes.”
And with such a array of talented and legendary artists, the two-hour show could have easily been four hours, or even a multi-night event. Some acts, like the “Temptations” and “Martha and the Vandellas” sang a handful of songs, while others like “Tina Turner” and “Donna Summer” were unfortunately limited to just one.
There was a sterling tribute to the recently passed legend, Aretha Franklin, which the on-stage “Aretha” performed one song that counted the most, Respect, while equal Masters respect was given to the late Tammi Terrel in a duet with Marvin Gaye.
With solid singing and showmanship all around, the highlight of the show happened towards the end of it. With “Gladys Knight and Pips” on stage, “Gladys” with a wireless mic, actually went up the left stage catwalk and ventured straight into the audience, where she belted out “Midnight Train to Georgia” while dancing with members of crowd and strutting up and down the aisles to a standing ovation.

“Gladys Knight” brings her intense style to the Hempstead Hall stage. (Rick Kennedy photo)
“Barry White” shows a style and color recalling the original artist on Saturday night (Rick Kennedy photo)
“Gladys Knight” ventures out into the crowd at Hempstead Hall. (Rick Kennedy photo)
“Martha” along with her Vandellas sang about a “Heat Wave” on Saturday night. (Rick Kennedy photo)

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