GREAT BARRINGTON -- There's a reason Darlene Love is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
At 72, Love still has a voice a reviewer in the L.A. Times termed "thunderous." And, as she displayed on Friday night before a standing-room crowd at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, she is a trouper and a pro.
Love battled an upper respiratory issue throughout the night, sipping a beverage from time to time and occasionally coughing and gasping.
She remained in good humor ("I refuse to be sick!") throughout the evening, and while the 16-song setlist may have been cut by a song or two, Love gutted out a heck of a Christmas show.
The former cornerstone of Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound has carved out quite a solo career in the past few decades. Friday's show was part of a fall/winter tour that will go through February.
Friday night's songs were a blend of holiday numbers and many of Love's signature songs from the 1960s.
But a holiday song sung by Darlene Love has a very clear rock feel.
Love opened with a pounding version of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and segued smoothly into one of her 1962 hits "Marshmellow World."
She followed up with 1963's "Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home," a Top 30 hit when Love sang with the Phillies (the girl group, not the baseball team).
Love's show had a distinctly 1960s feel, of course, since most of the songs she sang were from that era. But she sings songs like "Da Do Ron Ron" and "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" with an easy familiarity, backed by a crack 10-piece band.
This was a two-set show and Love ended the first set with "All Alone on Christmas," written and arranged by Miami Steve Van Zandt in 1992. This tune returned Love to the charts that year, as it reached No. 52 on Billboard's Radio Singles chart and 31 on the UK Singles chart.
The number, featuring a honking sax solo and pounding percussion, was clearly Springsteen-esque, and Love destroyed it.
The second set opened with "White Christmas," as well as Love's only No. 1 hit, "He's A Rebel," from 1962, when Love sang with The Crystals.
Things got a little serious mid-set, when Love, who comes from a gospel background, brought her backup singers to center stage for a moving version of gospel singer Walter Hawkins' "Marvelous."
Love was struggling by now, coughing and hitting the water bottle betwen songs. But she still managed to render a lovely version of "Lean On Me" and her show-stopper, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," made famous by her annual holiday appearance on The David Letterman Show.
Love, despite her clear discomfort, nailed it.