Jennifer Hudson at Pacer Center
Jennifer Hudson Setlist
Oscar and Grammy Award-winning royalty came to the Twin Cities as singer Jennifer Hudson was the featured performer at PACER Center’s 36th Annual Benefit, presented by Starkey Hearing Technologies, held this past weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Hudson, known most recently as a coach on NBC’s The Voice (also just announced as returning to the show), began as a American Idol contestant, before going on to win the Academy Award for her role in “Dreamgirls,” and has since won the Golden Globe, NAACP Image, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Hudson returned to PACER for the first time since 2007 to support the work PACER does for families of children with disabilities and children who are bullied.
The mission of PACER Center is to enhance the quality of life and expand opportunities for children, youth, and young adults with all disabilities and their families, so each person can reach his or her highest potential.
PACER, headquartered locally, serves families nationwide, as well as those in-state and operates on the principles of parents helping parents, supporting families, promoting a safe environment for all children, and working in collaboration with others.
The nonprofit, tax-exempt organization gets over 95% of its annual revenue from donor contributions, and its annual benefit evening is a vital part of their overall fundraising. Previous benefit guests have included Jay Leno (2017), Idina Menzel (2016); Crosby, Stills & Nash (2015); and Diana Ross (2014), among many others.
Ahead of the program and performance, a ballroom was filled with hundreds of silent auction items, from almost every category including art, jewelry, electronics, and children’s items, to signed sports and celebrity memorabilia, vacations, culinary experiences, entertainment experiences, and much more.
Music memorabilia included a signed guitar from Sheryl Crow and a signed drum from Jane’s Addiction, and guests also had the opportunity to purchase both wine pull and raffle tickets- the latter to win a trip to New York which included VIP tickets to ABC’s The Chew, along with meals at renowned NYC restaurants.
Chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern served as the evening program’s emcee with WCCO TV anchor Frank Vascellaro returning as the live auctioneer for the most special and unique experiences, some of which included Ellen tickets/Warner Brothers studio tour, Chef’s table dining, a tour of Tesla headquarters in California, and a Los Angeles meet-and-greet and tour escorted by famed movie producer Chris Moore, who was on hand to describe the adventure.
Senator (and former PACER board member) Amy Klobuchar made some light opening remarks and Brett Nelson was given the Otto Bremer Leadership Award for his perseverance and the impact that PACER Center has had on his life.
PACER National Ambassador Erin Barlow told a heartbreaking but hopeful tale of her own bullying and former Viking Esera Tuaolo sang a soaring rendition of Andra Day’s ‘Rise Up’.
Culminating the evening, Jennifer Hudson’s seventy-minute headlining set started strongly, with ‘Love You I Do’, a song from ‘Dreamgirls’, the film role for which she won an Oscar, and things quickly became more energized with ‘Night of Your Life’, her collaboration with DJ David Guetta.
Hudson was in fine voice throughout, assisted by a tight band and three backup singers- former Idol contestants George Huff and Siobhan, as well as Patrice Covington, who worked with Hudson on the stage version of ‘The Color Purple’.
After 2017’s ‘Remember Me’, ‘Spotlight’ -her most successful solo song, was a catchy and ideal showcase for her vocal range, leading directly into a song she was singing admittedly more for herself, the R.Kelly-produced ‘Where You At’.
‘Burden Down’ from her upcoming record, was skipped (was on the setlist), Hudson instead going right into “my absolute favorite song” she said, as she introduced her own stirring version of ‘Hallelujah’, which she began and ended off-mic, starting it by demurely howling in a Bono-like style.
After band and backup singer introductions, Hudson said “we can’t come here and not play a song” referring to Prince, saying “next to Whitney, he’s my favorite, so this is from my heart”, as she launched into a spirits-on-high ‘Purple Rain’, with Hudson’s rising vocals giving even more of a gospel tinge to the classic song.
The show then morphed into something much more interactive and connective as Hudson went into the crowd for an extended amount of time, breaking it down with another R. Kelly collaboration, ‘It’s Your World’, by working in some ‘Uptown Funk’ as a smiling Hudson embraced several up front in wheelchairs, graciously posed for selfies, and danced with enthusiastic fans, as the crowd from the back, rushed to fill the aisles to get a closer view.
Hudosn’s signature song from ‘Dreamgirls’, ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ ended the evening with Hudson admitting in her introduction, that “without this song, I wouldn’t be here” and her voice continued to rise to the rafters, even after she left the stage as the band continued playing.
A celebratory evening of premier entertainment and to be part of an occasion whose proceeds will promote anti-bullying and assist children, youth, and young adults, including those with disabilities, made the PACER Center’s 36th Annual Benefit one of the year’s most special nights, and their efforts are more than worthy of your support.
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