R&B singer Stephanie Mills likes performing in Metro Detroit
When Grammy-winning singer Stephanie Mills thinks of Detroit, she thinks of a place where love overflows, people are genuine and the grits are delicious.
“Detroit crowds let you know if they like you, and they’re very much like New York crowds. They can be rough if you don’t get it right,” Mills, 59, said with a chuckle during a recent phone interview. “That’s why I think shows come to Detroit because they know that Detroiters are honest. They’re going to give you their honest feelings about the show.”
Mills is counting on local fans’ candor when she performs Sunday night at the Andiamo Celebrity Showroom in Warren. This weekend’s concert marks the third time Mills has performed at the venue.
“I like Andiamo’s because it’s intimate,” said the songstress, whose soothing but powerful vocals on tunes such as “Home,” “I Feel Good All Over” and “Never Knew Love Like This Before” turned her into a star.
“I’ve played the Roxy in Los Angeles and BB King’s in New York and just like those places, Andiamo’s makes you feel close to the crowd and I like the intimacy.
“I can see everybody’s faces, and it’s like they’re in my living room,” she added. “Prince would play big arenas and then after that, he’d go play a small place. Even his last performance was in an intimate setting. There’s just something about seeing people singing your songs. You can really reach out and touch them.”
Mills said she regrets that she wasn’t able to work with Prince before he died. She covered his hit “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore?” in 1983 but would’ve loved to work with him in the studio. She honored Prince with a cover of “Purple Rain” not long after his death in April, so fans shouldn’t be surprised if at least one song from the Purple One turns up in her Andiamo set.
Other than that, Mills said fans should expect her to sing most of her hits people know and love. She’s even throwing in Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”
“I love that song,” Mills said of Sheeran’s chart topper. “I just recorded it because I’m back in the studio working on some new music. I’ll have a new single out in February. But I have a new band and I love to sing. It’s an exciting and very up tempo show. I give my all when I do my shows. I give 100 percent, leave everything on stage and each show is different from the last. I never approach a performance the same way twice.”
Performing in Metro Detroit is a homecoming of sorts. Mills, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, started singing at an early age in church. She got her first big break in the Broadway musical “Maggie Flynn,” when she was 9 and that was also the first time she visited Detroit.
“We performed ‘Maggie Flynn’ at the old Leland House,” Mills recalled. It’s now called the Leland Hotel. “Detroit is a theater town and a lot of shows that are on their way to Broadway, come through Detroit to do their tryouts and work out all the kinks in the show before heading to New York.”
Years after “Maggie Flynn,” Mills returned to Detroit for “The Wiz.”
“I loved doing theater in Detroit,” Mills said. “Like I said, it’s just an honest experience.”
Mills is a vegetarian and a breakfast lover and that’s another reason she can’t wait to come back to the Motor City. Although she lived in the Riverfront Towers apartments in the late 1990s when she was married to former WJLB-FM programming director Michael Saunders, she hadn’t eaten at Clique Restaurant.
That changed last year when she was here for a show. Mills ate at the beloved Jefferson Avenue eatery for the first time and it blew her mind, she said.
“They have the creamiest grits in the world,” Mills said of Clique. “I live in North Carolina now and my parents are from the South, so that’s saying a lot. I will definitely try to get back there while I’m in town.”
Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based entertainment reporter.
7 p.m. Sunday
Andiamo Celebrity Showroom
7096 E. 14 Mile, Warren
Call (586) 268-3200