Mary Wilson looks great. It’s hard to believe she’s 63. But as she once told a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle who asked what her beauty secrets were, “Black don’t crack.” That may be the secret to her life. She’s certainly had a lot of provocations and difficult times. But she’s still as strong and vibrant as her voice.
Her solo show at Feinstein’s at the Regency, “Up Close,” runs through the end of the month and is aptly named: a small room with terrific acoustics, tables that aren’t piled on top of each other and comfortable, well-upholstered seating. Although it was clear her fans would have gladly stood up for the entire show. She opened with the ballad, “Here’s To Life” (“…To dreamers and their dreams”), she could have been singing about herself and her own personal resilience.
I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the woman appears so confident and so happy to be right where she is. She even said so, “If I died and I could come back as anyone, I’d come back as Mary Wilson of The Supremes.” It’s impossible to look at her and listen to her and not be reminded of that young woman who, with her friends from the Brewster Projects of Detroit, dreamed of being a star and really made it, becoming one of The Supremes, one of the most successful and famous female singing groups in recording history. And when she sang, “My World Is Empty Without You,” it was hard to tell who was happier—the audience at hearing it or her while singing it. Her choice of songs was eclectic, “Smile,” “New York State of Mind” and “Don’t Know Why,” and her voice is amazingly strong, but what’s surprising is the emotional connection she brings to everything she sings.
Wilson thinks that the singers and groups today ought to realize that the eyes and ears of younger people are on them. “What you do matters to young people,” she cautions, adding they ought to try to “walk a straighter line.” Getting that first break may be harder, she acknowledges. “It’s more about marketing and making money than finding new genuine talent and creativity. Record companies are more into looking for a gimmick or something they can sell.”
Feinstein’s At The Regency ain’t cheap. There’s a $75 cover and a $40 minimum. But it’s certainly comparable to tickets to a Broadway show and a bite to eat. And all that for a living legend.
The Regency is at 540 Park Ave. (at 61st St.), 212-339-4095 for reservations.