There was perhaps an understandable note of triumph as Mary Wilson recalled her rocky road to fame.
“Yeah, I was just one of the girls singing the oohs and ahs behind Diana, but don’t think I didn’t have fun.” She fixed the Pavilion audience with a knowing stare. “I was laughing all the way to the bank for 45 years”
Being a Supreme was obviously a pretty tough gig. Three girls from the wrong side of the tracks in Detroit pulled off the streets and schooled for stardom by Tamla Motown Svengali Berry Gordy. A masterful manipulator of talent, he had them drilled in everything from dress to deportment before letting them out on the road with a collection of dream songs and routines custom-designed for the job.
As the hits poured in another element was added to sound of the famed Motown rhythm section - the vague resonance of clashing egos. Diana Ross got the big bucks (and quite a few bad headlines). Poor Florence Ballard couldn’t hack it at all. She left the band, went into a downward spiral and died aged just 32.
But Mary Wilson just kept on keeping on. The result is plain for everyone to see. She certainly isn’t anyone’s backing vocalist on this tour. She’s a big name fronting a seriously slick soul band and steaming through all the big hits - Stop In the Name of Love, You Keep Me Hanging On, River Deep Mountain High, Baby Love... they were all there.
Just days before her 67th birthday this extraordinary grandmother of eight was looking good and sounding phenomenal. At one point she invited a dozen members of the audience up on stage to sing along. It could have been a disaster but it worked a treat.
Support act were 70s smooch-merchants The Chi-Lites bringing with them some super-smooth tunes and a few memories that had just a whiff of Old Spice and Blue Nun about them.