Like Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, and Hank Williams Sr., Marvin Gaye is a perfect example of a musical giant who became his own worst enemy and turned to drugs and/or alcohol to cope with his demons. Gaye didn't die from drug-related causes; he was shot and killed by his own father in 1984. But cocaine and severe depression did take their toll on the soul legend, and that is why his concerts could be erratic and inconsistent during the last few years of his life. Like various CDs that have come from The Right Stuff, Park South, and other labels, Performance focuses on Gaye's 1983 tour. This disc isn't without its problems. The sound quality is not great -- it isn't bad, but it isn't great -- and at times, Gaye's substance abuse is obviously affecting the quality of his work. But despite those things, the CD has more ups than downs. Even though Gaye had grown to dread touring and was fighting a losing battle with his demons in 1983, he manages to sound passionate more often than not. All of the songs that Gaye chooses are first-rate, and that includes "Sexual Healing," as well as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and major '70s hits like "What's Going On," "Inner City Blues," and "Let's Get It On." However, not all of Gaye's performances are first-rate -- he sounds inspired more often than he sounds uninspired, but the CD (which contains insightful liner notes by singer Athan Maroulis) certainly isn't without its weak moments. Because of Performance's inconsistent, uneven nature and its imperfect sound quality, the disc is not recommended to casual listeners. Performance is strictly for collectors and hardcore fans, who will want to obtain this CD despite its shortcomings.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson