LIVE (Retro): Diana Ross & Stevie Wonder @ SPAC, 8/5/1968

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This is a review of a concert that took place years ago, on this date, in Nippertown concert history. The review was previously published, and we are reposting it for historical reference.

The Supremes Pack ‘Em In At Saratoga

Originally published on August 6, 1968, in The Knickerbocker News, written by R. E. KRIEGER.


A long time ago it was called rhythm and blues and blues shouting and the Kansas City sound and even before that you could hear little chunks of it being sung in the turpentine camps down south.

Now it’s been blurred and amplified and although to the purist something has been lost the sound still rocks under a new description, the “Motown Sound.”

AND THAT’S just what overwhelmed the Saratoga Performing Arts Center last night when a crowd that looked like the biggest ever at the center came in to see Diana Ross and the Supremes.

The Motown Sound started in Detroit, naturally, and if you feel you have to blame somebody it all comes down to Berry Gordy Jr. who started peddling the stuff. Most of the crowd at the center last night were delirious with joy (those were the fans) and others looked stunned (it was the first time for them.)

The Supremes popped on for one number in the first half of the program «and then vanished leaving the stage to Shorty Long who came on dressed as a judge . . . black robes and a white fright wig to sing (surprise!) “Here comes the judge.” After a blackout, he appeared again and sang some more this time attired in a ravishing pink suit which wasn’t quite as off-color as some of his remarks.

THEN ON came Stevie Wonder, another out of the Motown record stable and the audience began to wonder aloud just what the Supremes were doing all this time back in their dressing room where, according to reports, they were barricaded against all and sundry.

The wonder of Mr. Wonder is that he doesn’t kill himself. He leaps and reels about the stage from mike to mike, plays the harmonica in Sonny Terry style, sings in Ray Charles style and plays drums a bit.

The pedal on his bass drum wouldn’t work so someone bent over to fix it, his head immediately below the big Zildjian cymbal that was, being whaled on by Mr. Wonder. For a second. disaster loomed but then they led Mr- Wonder to another set of drums and the 16-piece band behind him, obviously unacquainted with balance or dynamics, played frenetic riffs behind him. On and on he went singing again and reaching a point where he tussled with the orchestra leader until they were both on the floor, took off his coat and threw it way and.then was hauled bodily from the stage.

The astonishing, almost awesome part of the whole performance is the fact that Mr. Wonder is blind.

AFTER intermission Diana Ross and the Supremes came on dressed gorgeously and sung and undulated their way through their tunes that have sold 7 million records, had a passel of kids come up from the audience to dance and ended up the evening with “A Time for Love” which merged into a plea for racial equality.

By this time the audience on the lawn had poured on to the lawns beside the auditorium sending police scurrying to the stage apron. There were six of them all looking uneasy and the unkindest cut of the whole evening was some wag behind us who pointed them out as the complete police force of Saratoga.

I wouldn’t dare to describe the parking lot chaos … the mind boggles at the very thought.

Even more devastating to think about was the rumor last night that Ravi Shankar (who performs at the center tonight) was on the lawn watching.

What he must have thought is indescribable.

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