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Concert Reviews:
Staples, Osborne deliver Solid Soul, and more, at Macomb Center

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, October 25, 2015

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP -- Mavis Staples and Joan Osborne are calling their joint fall trek the Solid Soul Tour. But there's much more the show than that title conveys.

The two singers spanned genres and generations on Saturday night, Oct. 24, at the Macomb Center For the Performing Arts, touching on soul, rock, gospel, blues, Americana and, thanks to Osborne, even a bit of Appalachian yodeling over the course of 17 songs. It was a kind of musical classroom, but one that rocked and swung with a sublime sense of purpose and ebullient energy.

As the 76-year-old Staples put it, "We've come to bring you some joy, some happiness, inspiration and some positive vibrations." And that they surely did.

Osborne began the night playing with members of Staples' band, led by facile guitarist Rick Holmstrom, delivering stripped-down arrangements of mostly her own material -- including three songs from her platinum debut album "Relish," which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. That, of course, included her hit "One of Us," but Osborne had some surprises, too, including honoring a fan's shouted request for "Spider Web" and covers of John Prine's Angel From Montgomery" and Al Green's wiggly "Rhymes."

Staples, still a good-humored dynamo with a shout that can wake someone three counties away, got those "positive vibrations" going the second she stepped on stage, as she and the five-piece band drove right into the hand-clapping groove of the Staples Singers' "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)." Each of her nine songs touched on themes of empowerment and spirituality with a preacher's passion, whether it was more Staples Singers songs ("Respect Yourself"), recent Staples solo material ("You Are Not Alone," "Fight") or well-chosen covers of Talking Heads' "Slippery People," Funkadelic's "Can You Get To That" and Little Milton's "We're Gonna Make It," with "Deacon" Donny Gerrard and Vicki "Squeaky" Randale fleshing out the powerful vocal arrangements.

Osborne came back for the traditional "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" and the Staple Singers' anthem "I'll Take You There," and as Staples took her bows the criminally small crowd at the Macomb Center knew it had been schooled and uplifted by a collaboration that made one plus one equal far more than just two.

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