The year was 1991. It was the year of the Gulf War and President George H.W. Bush was in the White House. It was also the year of my most memorable concert Luther Vandross’ “Power of Love Tour” at Albany (NY)’s Knickerbocker Arena December 1991. While this wasn’t the first concert I’ve attended—it was the first concert that I’ve ever had the concert experience. I not only had the visual experience but also the emotional experience or moment with thousands of other attendees.
It was a freezing cold night, temperatures in the single digits but it didn’t stop the thousands for coming out to hear the members of the “Power of Love” tour : Luther Vandross, Sounds of Blackness, Sinbad, and Lisa Fischer, all acts that I was more than enthusiastic to see and enjoy their musical talents. Usually when I attend a concert, I might be going to see one or two out of three or four acts—its a treat.
The evening started off with “Sounds of Blackness” performing their hit “Optimistic” which many in the audience were singing and dancing. They also did a few other songs off of their title album “Evolution of Gospel”. The comedian Sinbad took to the stage next taking occasional jabs at the audience while performing material from his “Brain Damaged” album.
Everybody was expecting Vandross to perform about three or four songs since it was after 10 p.m. when he went on stage. However, he surprised all of us when he performed for an hour and a half all of his best known songs. I remember there being scarce a sound in the room except for an occasional “Sing it Luther” or applause. When he sang his trademark “A House Is Not A Home” many in the audience stood to their feet and swayed to the rhythm. I remember when he sang “Superstar” I closed my eyes for 10 seconds and imagined he was singing just to me.
I remember Vandross in the middle of his set turned to his backup singers and introducing R&B singer Lisa Fischer. Fischer smiled, took the microphone from Vandross and proceeded to belt out a wonderfully done “How Can I Ease The Pain” from her “So Intense” album as well as a couple of other selections before she returned the microphone to Vandross. Vandross did more than 10 songs that night as the audience craved for more. He seemed like he was enjoying himself as much as the audience. When he performed “No Never Enough”, I thought to myself this concert was never enough. It was like listening to a record, tape, or CD that you relished and wanted to hear again and again. By the end of the concert, he thanked us from attending the concert—we thanked him with a standing ovation.
The concert ended after midnight. It didn’t matter that I had to go back out in the cold or work the following day—-I experienced the concert of my dreams. The enjoyment of that evening was worth more than the $40 ticket I paid.
When I attend concerts now, I tend to measure them to the “Power of Love Tour” concert that night. Even though the performers may be good—its not the same feeling. I can never go to another Vandross tour concert, he died in 2005. He’s been gone for nearly six years but when I think about how I felt at that concert—he’s never gone from my heart. I just remember being in the concert moment.