THE band sort of just appeared on stage piecemeal as routine disco classics were pumped out during the interval, then the lights went down and the Empress of Soul emerged from stage rear, resplendent in head to toe silver sequins.

And from there she had the adoring audience in the palm of her hand during an entertaining and varied 90-minute set packed with 19 essentially disparate songs all made memorable by the 75-year-old’s incredibly powerful contralto voice.

We were worshipping at the feet of the chatty Empress while we still could and she generally didn’t disappoint, even if she possibly rambled on a little too much about loving her audience twixt songs.

The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin may be dead, but she was homaged through Carole King’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Gladys has surely now taken her place, albeit with a more disco feel.

With a six-piece band, including two percussionists and two keyboard players, plus the legendary Pips ‘tribute act’ in three excellent backing singers, what we essentially had here was an old fashioned soul revue with no special effects and music to the fore. And it should be noted that at one point everyone on stage apart from the leader was seated.

A middle section of the substantial Bond theme Licence To Kill followed by Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night proved the night’s highlight, before an exemplary Midnight Train To Georgia which turned the entire audience into Pips, singing along like crazy as Georgia-born Knight bossed the tune.

Otherwise, we had the likes of Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye), You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, a cover of Major’s Why I Love You, the tedious Streisand song The Way We Were and a tribute to James Ingram with his One Hundred Ways.

And was that really Sly Stone’s Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) that closed the show before Knight exited stage rear, the band continued and the house lights went up the second they stopped playing?

Extraordinarily, the support act was ‘comedian’ Paul Tucker whose unfunny, anti-diluvial cruise ship style act made me wonder if the Bournemouth summer variety show had risen from the dead and that Jayne MacDonald would be appearing for the second half, followed by a magician, Cannon & Ball then Roger de Courcey and Nookie Bear. Thankfully I woke from that particular nightmare just in time but Tucker seemed a particularly strange bedfellow for Gladys.