Concert Review: Gladys Knight – The Farewell Tour

At just shy of eighty years old, Empress of Soul Gladys Knight certainly still knows how to perform and entertain an audience

At just shy of eighty years old, Empress of Soul Gladys Knight certainly still knows how to perform and entertain an audience

Presented by: MG Live, Arena Touring and Frontier Touring

Reviewed: 21 March, 2024

At just shy of eighty years old, Empress of Soul Gladys Knight certainly still knows how to perform and entertain an audience. Knight is currently touring Australia as part of her farewell tour, and her Adelaide performance on Thursday 21 March was a masterclass in performance and finding joy in life.

Gladys Knight’s musical career began at a very young age, where she would perform alongside her siblings in the group The Pips. They recorded chart topping hits through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s including I Heard It Through The Grapevine, If I Were Your Woman, Every Beat Of My Heart and Letter Full of Tears. Following the success of the group, Knight broke out into a solo career. With seven Grammy awards to her name Knight has recorded more than 38 albums and has a long list of chart topping hits. 

Opening the evening was support act Sean Blackwell. Blackwell performed a thirty minute set of his own songs that are a blend of folk, rock and country. Blackwell’s music was very laid back and he sang with a light, but raw vocal quality. Blackwell, who also played acoustic guitar, was joined by his brother Drew on acoustic guitar/backing vocals and Kirsten on backing vocals/shaker. Whilst Blackwell’s music was well written and performed, it did feel slightly out of place as the support act for Gladys Knight. Keep an eye out for Blackwell — it’s always great to see South Australians doing great things in the Australian music industry. 

After what felt like a rather extended intermission, Gladys Knight took to the stage to a thunderous applause. The Adelaide Festival Theatre was a very fitting place for this legend of the music industry to perform. Dressed in sunshine yellow, the only thing brighter than Knight’s outfit was her infectious smile and laugh. The moment she opened her mouth to sing, Knight reminded her Adelaide audience why she is the Empress of Soul. Vocally, Knight still is at the top of her game. Her soulful tones warmed the auditorium as she sang and grooved her way through a small selection of her expansive catalogue of hits. Early in the concert Knight told the audience that she absolutely loves music and it’s a huge part of who she is. You could clearly see this — this love radiated out of Knight. Her banter with the audience between numbers was like long lost friends catching up to share memories or meanings behind favourite songs.

With so many hits under her belt, it would have been not an easy task to select the set list for her farewell tour. Unlike some bands who leave their big hits to the end, Knight beautifully spaced her biggest hits throughout the performance. With such an expansive career, just about every song Knight recorded was a hit. However, it was her 1967 version I Heard it Through The Grapevine, Licence To Kill (recorded in 1989 for the James Bond film of the same name) and Midnight Train to Georgia (recorded in 1973) that were audience favourites.

To say Knight’s band was brilliant would be a huge understatement. They were tight in their musicianship and it was evident there was much respect to Knight and her legacy in how they approached their playing. Two keyboard players (each playing two keyboards), an auxiliary percussionist, drummer, bassist and guitarist provided a high energy foundation for Knight’s soaring voice. Three backup vocalists rounded out Knight’s band, and boy could they sing. At times, Knight allowed each backing vocalist to take lead in a song. What I found brilliant and rather moving was that Knight didn’t just stand back and let the vocalist take lead, but she took that vocalist’s place in the backing harmonies, blending with the others. It was a wonderful experience to see a band show so much respect to who they are there to support, but at the same time, the respect was flooded back to them from Knight. Together, they created a phenomenal sound that will be playing in my head for a long time to come.

So many big names in the world’s music industry overlook Adelaide, but having Knight include Adelaide as part of her farewell tour shows just how much respect Knight has to her fans. This was a brilliant celebration of a long and ground-breaking career. Knight may have boarded the midnight train to other stops on our Australian tour, but her music will be sounding for a long time to come.

Reviewed by Ben Stefanoff

Photo credit: supplied

Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: ended
For further Australian tour dates visit:

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