It was a crisp, chilly night on February 11th, 2023 when I made the 8-hour drive from Glendale, Arizona to Los Angeles, California, to see what I considered one of my bucket-list concerts: to not only witness The Former Ladies of The Supremes, but two members, Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene, who were part of my favorite and final lineup of the group from 1976-1977. I sit here thinking to myself, “how could I possibly describe and sum up The Supremes, who began as the Primettes in 1959, and from 1960 – 1977, managing to accumulate over 29 studio albums, 66 singles, 12 of which were number one hits?” Well, I think that passing thought speaks for itself.
While most younger folk will know The Supremes as the inspiration for Dreamgirls, a musical-turned-hit film based on the memoirs of founding member, Mary Wilson, titled Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme, each era of the group presented a cohesively diverse lineup of four different women through wildly different eras, musically curated for the beginning and end of the 60s and 70s, respectively.
Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene represent the last era of this storied group, as The Supremes shifted from straight pop to the dance and disco genres, captivating the dance club audience for the remaining time of the group’s original run. After the group officially disbanded in 1977, this led to a slew of solo projects, reunions, and collaborations from each individual member, namely The Former Ladies of The Supremes. Known as The FLOS, they have featured multiple individuals over the years from each lineup of the original group and beyond, delighting audiences and giving a spotlight to the multiple eras of the group as each member lived them.
This night was no exception as Scherrie Payne, Susaye Greene, and Joyce Vincent of Tony Orlando & Dawn took the stage to a sold-out audience at The Catalina Jazz Club to rapturous applause. Beginning with a medley of “Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon/Corner of The Sky,” this opening number set the tone for what would be an entrancing display of vocal power; for while the 1970s were decades ago, these three women and their powerful voices have not aged a day. Skirting through the group’s earlier hits like “The Happening,” and an early hit medley, a poignant moment arrived when Payne sung a jazz-up, slowed-down re-work of “My World is Empty Without You,” giving a new perspective to the formerly upbeat number.
After moving through different eras with 1970’s Up The Ladder To The Roof and going back in time to 1968’s Love Child, the ladies let the band take over for a brief costume change as the show design afforded key solo moments for each FLOS member, from Susaye Greene showing off her upper register with a cover of “My Funny Valentine,” while Joyce Vincent gave a moving tribute with her brassy alto to one of her favorite artists, Dionne Warwick, with “I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” letting Scherrie Payne show off her vocal power with “Here’s To Life,” segueing to the last and final set of the show.
After singing 60s Supremes hits like “You Keep Me Hanging On,” “Come See About Me,” and “Back In My Arms Again,” the floor was given to Joyce Vincent who delighted the audience with songs she sang with Tony Orlando & Dawn like “Knock 3 Times” and “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree,” segueing into “High Energy,” a latter-day Supremes disco track which featured Susaye Greene on lead and served as her proper musical introduction to the group’s lineup in 1976; this also served as a loving introduction to the very talented band carrying the ladies instrumentally through the varied setlist.
The last few numbers, namely “How Do You Keep The Music Playing,” “Stoned Love,” “Someday We’ll Be Together,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” felt like they served as multiple encores in themselves, as each warranted a standing ovation from the enthusiastic audience. Each moment of the show kept myself and the rest of the crowd enraptured as each member captured the same moment in time of their experience in the music industry bottled into one night at a swanky jazz club, as if no time passed at all. While fans and I alike have our favorite eras of The Supremes’ original tenure, we all left satisfied, getting a taste of each era and more, through three ladies who are intent on keeping an important period of American and American Black History alive for years to come.
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