The Solid Soul Tour pulled through Proctors in Schenectady this past week and it was surprising to see the show not as highly attended as one would hope. Mavis Staples and Joan Osborne were both in fine form though and played as if it were a complete sellout. Both artists of course are no stranger to the stage, as Mavis has been going since the 50’s and Joan the early 90’s, but this is the first time these wonderful leading women have gone out together. The pairing is perfect as both of them at heart are blues based artists and share a love for the genre.
The show was about two hours long and had no set break as Joan used Mavis’s band for her set. Rick Holmstrom played some impressive guitar during both sets and was clearly in control of where the music went. He shined bright during Joan’s set on the Bill Withers song “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” and during Mavis’s set on “Can You Get to That.” Stephen Hodges, who has toured with so many amazing artists, held down the drums with such ease all night and was complimented by Jeff Turmes on the bass, who also has an impressive resume of artists he has toured with.
Both sets were short, but Mavis and Joan included many funny stories and put their great voice on full display. Joan noted how happy she was to be back in the area, as she used to play The Capital District when she was a nobody playing in tiny little clubs. Before Bonnie Raitt’s “Angel of Montgomery,” Joan talked about how she was nervous to do one of her songs, but after seeing her friend Susan Tedeschi do it at Jones Beach this past summer, she thought to herself “Why not give it a shot?” She also couldn’t hold in how happy she was to be sharing the stage with Mavis, as she was a major influence when she was younger and a major part of music history. During “One of Us” you could hear a pin drop in the theater and after that a rousing set ending “I Can’t Let It Get Me Down” with a “Rolling on the River” tease brought the crowd to their feet.
Mavis soon strode onto the stage with a smile on her face, after being introduced by backup singers Donny Gerrard and Vicki Randle, and gave the crowd a one two punch of “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” and “Slippery People.” Mavis welcomed the crowd and talked about her love of The Talking Heads and David Byrne in general. Mavis seemed to be battling a cold all night, but her voice was still just as strong as ever. She was happy to be in Schenectady, though she had trouble saying the city’s name all night, and told the crowd as much many times. The band turned Proctors into a church for the gospel ending of “We’re Gonna Make It” and had people finally get out of their seats and dancing. She also noted that though she continues to get older and can’t do the moves Joan does on stage, while proceeding to try, she will never “be old.”
As the show was winding down, Mavis brought Joan back out for a great roll through “Down By the Riverside” that had the two singers trading verses, smiles, and hugs. A short break before everyone came out for the encore let the audience get up out of their seats and applaud in utter appreciation for the legendary member of The Staples Singers. After everyone came back out she made sure the band got their appreciation and introduced each member before going into “I’ll Take You There.” The entire audience sang right back to Mavis throughout the extended version that ended the evening. With smiles on the faces of each person in the building, Mavis, Joan and the band left the stage to a thunderous applause.