Review | Mavis Staples brings down the curtain on Perth Festival 2020

Mavis Staples | Chevron Lighthouse | 1st March 2020 | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Huge applause welcomed the great Mavis Staples as she took to the stage to close the Perth International Arts Festival on Sunday night.

The 80 year old singer opened her set with If Your Ready (Come Go With Me) which was a hit for her band The Staple Singers in 1973. Telling the audience she was definitely “feeling alright”, the gospel, blues and soul singer showed that she’s still got a lot to sing about decades after her impressive career began.

With an impressive collection of her own hits, and songs made famous by other artists, Staples presented an eclectic selection of songs. There were numbers from The Staples Singers including Touch a Hand, Make a Friend and their mega-hit Respect Yourself, but Staples also worked in covers from Funkadelic and Buffalo Springfield.

The band accompanying Staples was world class, backed by impressive guitarist Rick Holmstrom, bass player  James Greg Boaz and drummer Steve Mugalian, she also had two impressive backing vocalists. Singer Saundra Williams was previous with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, while baritone singer Donny Gerrard had his own impressive music career in the 1970s.

Newer material from her most recent album with Ben Harper was also included, Stronger and Brothers and Sisters were included in the 75 minute set. At the end of the sold blues workout Staples declared she was certainly tired, but her enthusiasm and powerhouse vocals never waned.

Returning to the stage for an encore Staples noted that the last month in the USA had been the celebration of Black History Month and how she felt it was important to always be talking about black history.

The singer closed her set with a rousing rendition of Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, the folk song that became influential during America’s civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. A movement that Staples was a frontline participant.

Throughout the show the songs and conversation followed a theme, that you’ve got to fight for rights, respect yourself and others and make the world a better place. Decades on from when she performed alongside Dr Martin Luther King, Mavis Staples is still spreading the word and sharing the love.

Graeme Watson, images Marnie Richardson.