Vanessa Williams brings the right stuff to the Vilar in Beaver Creek
What do you get when you mix a modeling career, hit records, starring roles in film and television, lauded stage performances and co-authoring a book? Why, Vanessa Williams, of course.
On Sunday night, Williams performed at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek, walking the audience through her 30-year-long career in music. Williams noted that while she’s had a successful career in music, some might know her from her time on “Ugly Betty” (for which, she earned three Emmy Award nominations) and “Desperate Housewives.”
It stands to reason that after 30 years, any performer would know how to put on a strong show, and Williams was no exception — sounding even better in person than she does on record.
After encouraging the audience to get comfortable with “Comfort Zone,” the performance included some of her earliest hits such as “The Right Stuff” and “Dreamin’” from her debut album. That album was certified gold — meaning 500,000 copies sold — and earned Williams three Grammy Award nominations. Williams would go on to earn eight more Grammy nominations.
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Williams then moved on to sing two theme songs that she’s recorded: “Love Is” (from the television show “Beverly Hills, 90210”) and “Colors of the Wind,” the theme from Disney’s “Pocahontas.” “Colors of the Wind” would go on to win a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. Williams recalled performing the song at the Academy Awards ceremony, after which, host Whoopi Goldberg stated: “I wonder what color my wind is.”
The songstress also proved to be a fan of the stage by singing several Broadway numbers. Williams has starred on Broadway multiple times, earning a Tony Award nomination for her turn as the Witch in “Into the Woods,” and after seeing her stage presence, there’s no doubt that she deserved the nomination.
The Broadway set included “Children Will Listen” and a mashup of “Losing my Mind” and “Not a Day Goes By,” which she performed with her backup singer. Williams had an affinity for those songs, as Stephen Sondheim, a colleague of hers that she admires greatly, composed them.
Next came “Stormy Weather,” a song made famous by Lena Horne, who Williams not only identified as a personal idol, but managed to embody on stage, proving her affinity for jazz and classical music — a rare trait in many contemporary pop singers.
Williams also performed the song “Bill” from “Showboat,” which she starred in a production of along side the New York Philharmonic for a PBS special.
At this point, Williams took some time to introduce each of her band members in detail — something many pop singers don’t take the time to do. She discussed everything from their children to their own careers and beyond before each took the spotlight to perform a solo. The obviously tightknit band has been together since 1997 and has traveled the world as a team.
Next came “If There Were No Song,” which Williams said was about “how the world would not be a great place without music.” Her passion was obvious while performing the song, clearly appreciating the ability to make and perform her own tunes.
After performing “Work To Do” and “Oh How the Years Go By,” (a tribute to her audience), Williams sang what is perhaps her biggest hit, “Save the Best for Last” to wrap up the show. However, an encore provided Williams the opportunity to perform a Latin-influenced song and a non-stop salsa dance in some pretty steep heels.