Gladys Knight’s performance in her namesake showroom at the Tropicana is a well-stirred blend of old-time tent revival and self-help seminar delivered with heaping spoonfuls of rich Motown soul. Her recipe is deceptively simple: She invites us into “her house,” where she reminds us that in the South, no one ever goes home hungry. Knight becomes the world-wise woman who urges us to take a load off and visit awhile as she offers up her homespun remedy of music and entertainment—always good for what ails the heart. Her down-home approach filled the house at her April 26 show and drew a chorus of secular hallelujahs and amens.
What she sings is almost beside the point, it’s the flavor that counts. Sure, there’s “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Settle” and a collection of movie themes, but Knight’s strong voice and intimate segues delivered with “a mic and a light” create a potent hyper-nostalgia, even for someone who has never been a fan. Some have argued that Knight is a puzzling choice for the newly sexed-up Trop, but her subtle and sage understanding of every aspect of living fully might be just the note they need.