She remained part of the biggest selling girl group of all time while their name was changed by label boss Berry Gordy to Diana Ross & The Supremes, through the ousting of Ballard (who sadly died in 1976) and then the departure of Ross in 1970.
The Supremes still had seven Top 40 hits in the US after Diana Ross had gone solo, including the great Stoned Love, Nathan Jones and Floy Joy, with the group finally coming to an end in 1977.
Her later career was inevitably much less successful, although her 1986 autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme was an international best-seller and one I really must read.
I had high hopes for this gig, as I was expecting to hear many songs I have loved for decades, and I was not to be disappointed!
I just had time to pop into The Lion Tavern for a very welcome pint on what was a hot day – warm enough for me to make this probably the first gig I have attended in a pair of shorts.
I navigated around the groups of tourists on Mathew Street, heading down into the venue shortly after the doors for the show were due to open. However, many people were already inside, taking advantage of the free music on offer in the ‘original’ part of the club.
I was surprised to see the main area of the Live Lounge laid out with seats, but I was too late to nab one, especially as it took ages to get served at the bar – although as it was air conditioned there, that wasn’t such an ordeal.
The night was hosted by Smooth Radio’s Jo Lloyd, who gave an excitable, but frankly rather unnecessary, introduction.The seven-piece backing band came on stage first to play a slick, supper club-style instrumental that later featured some sampled vocals.
Wilson then emerged, kicking off with Love Child, a 1968 US number one by Diana Ross & The Supremes that actually did not feature Wilson, with the backing vocals instead having been sung by The Andantes.
A very early highlight for me was My World Is Empty Without You, one of their singles from 1965, but a song I actually know more for the cover by The Afghan Whigs.
There were so many hits to be packed into the set that some were segued together, such as You Can’t Hurry Love which flowed into Come See About Me and then the glorious Back In My Arms Again.
Wilson got the giggles during Stop! In The Name Of Love, a number one US hit from 1965, as she forgot some of the words.
You Keep Me Hangin’ On was wonderful, but was followed by the more gloopy You Are So Beautiful, a song first recorded by Billy Preston but covered famously by Joe Cocker. Sadly, this featured a horrible power ballad-esque guitar solo while Wilson left the stage for the first of a few costume changes.
A cover of Jennifer Hudson’s I Am Changing, from the Dreamgirls soundtrack, was dedicated to the late Florence Ballard, while I thought I caught a very brief, throwaway mention of Diana Ross at the same time – she was not referenced at any other time!
A singalong Someday We’ll Be Together was the final song of the main set, with Wilson going off stage briefly before returning for a Rolling Stones medley of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and Brown Sugar.
The former was of course famously covered by Otis Redding in the same year that the Stones recorded it, while Brown Sugar was a more surprising choice given its lyrics referring to slavery and youthful (if not underage…) sex.A second and final encore was a cover of Donna Summer’s Last Dance, a slightly underwhelming end to the set for me.
Overall, though, it had been a great show, with Mary Wilson still having an incredible voice, especially for a septuagenarian, and she came across as a lovely person. The backing band was a little too tight or slick for my tastes, but that’s probably just as Berry Gordy would have wanted it.
There was just enough time between leaving the venue and my next train to head back into the Lion for a quick pint of Moorhouse’s Pride Of Pendle.
I wore my yellow Stax tee, with the only other band t-shirt I spotted being several men of a certain age all in Supremes/Cavern ones.
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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify: