TV Review: Darlene Love’s Christmas Swan Song on David Letterman’s Late Show

An era ends as Darlene Love makes her final Christmas appearance on the legend’s late night talk show

We at Screaming Back at the Screen are HUGE fans of the GREAT talk show host, David Letterman. His late show is our preferred destination for late night viewing, laughter and musical guests and we try to watch as often as possible.

We’ve always looked forward to Darlene Love‘s annual performance of her yuletide classic, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). For almost 30 years, she has closed Letterman‘s show at the holiday season with a rocking performance of her signature seasonal tune on the Friday before Christmas.

Courtesy of Rolling Stone

Darlene Love and Paul Shaffer rock the house on the Late Show with David Letterman. It was the last of her annual Christmas performances.

Between her roof-raising, blues shouting vocals and Paul Shaffer leading the show’s house band, the CBS Orchestra, past performances of this Christmas classic were nothing short of great and last night’s performance was no exception.  Dressed in a form-fitting red Hope Wade gown, Love sang her song with more gusto than in previous appearances. Her voice was in great shape and she even hopped on top of Shaffer‘s piano for the final verse, sharing it with that honking baritone sax as the show closed out.

Photo courtesy of Vox.com

Darlene Love and the sax player share Paul Shaffer’s piano top on the Late Show with David Letterman

Schaffer‘s arrangements, always supplemented by additional musicians including string and horn sections and a chorus of background singers, effectively recreate the Wall of Sound perfected by Phil Specter, one of the song’s co-writers, consistently rock the Ed Sullivan Theatre to its foundation.

Sadly, with Letterman‘s impending retirement closer than we care to think about, this year’s visit from Darlene and her Christmas classic was her 28th annual and the last EVER, marking the end of an era. She first appeared on Letterman‘s NBC show back in 1986 after he spotted her singing her Christmas signature song in a show that Paul Shaffer participated in.

One of the most memorable performances had the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants doing chorus duty while soldiers watched from their station in Bosnia and others in the studio audience.

Because SBATS has enjoyed these appearances so much, Love’s last couple of appearances have assumed a permanent position on our DVR which, even in the brutal blistering heat of summer, are always fun to watch.

Not only did her appearances become a must-watch event and annual tradition, they were instrumental in reviving her career which was highlighted by her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and her appearance in the Oscar-winning documentary film, 20 Feet From Stardom.

Photo courtesy of Vulture.com

Darlene Love in her final Christmas performance on Late Show with David Letterman

Love said she won’t be performing Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) in future television appearances. Out of loyalty to Letterman, she made the choice to keep it exclusively for his show. However, the song may make an appearance or two in her live shows and will remain in her repertoire. As for the song’s talk show appearances, “This is where it ends,” she told Letterman before taking the mike.

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