If the city of Stockbridge has high hopes for its new amphitheater, it got off to an auspicious start Saturday night with not one, but two music superstars — Patti LaBelle and Atlanta native Gladys Knight.

In an event equal parts joyous, emotional and religious revival, the pair — both in their 70s with voices undiminished by age — turned out tour de force performances of three decades of hits.

They were helped by an audience eager to back them as surrogate Pips — Knight’s former bandmates — or members of LaBelle, the eponymous singer’s girl group with Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx. When LaBelle or Knight dropped a word or two from a verse or needed an extra Pips “woo woo,” the crowd of 3,000 was more than willing to fill in.

The concert reunited Knight and LaBelle a year after their September 2020 online Verzuz battle, though they never shared the stage Saturday.

The Verzuz event, which brings together two acts to “battle” their hits, was more a lovefest for the two longtime friends as they spent as much time complimenting each other’s work as they did singing. (In a surprise, fellow friend Dionne Warwick joined in at the end of the set to perform their hit cover of Karyn White’s “Superwoman.”)

“I’m going to take my time tonight as best I can because I’m with my best friend,” a beaming LaBelle said Saturday at the amphitheater.

Explore2020: Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle slay in Sunday night Verzuz

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Draped in a dress that shimmered in the light, she opened the night with the up-tempo “Something Special” and “Feels Like Another One,” bringing the concertgoers to their feet.

But she quickly shifted gears to talk about the death earlier in the week of Dash, a loss she said Knight was helping her work through. It was a subject she would return to several times during the one-hour set — her voice cracking throughout — including during a plaintive interpretation of “Isn’t It a Shame” as a video of Dash through the years played on a screen behind her.

The diva that audiences eat up also was on stage. LaBelle showed off her dance moves to let kids know that while twerking isn’t her thing, she can still keep up. And while she didn’t quite kick off her shoes with flair as has become a legendary part of her performances, she did ask the audience if she could ditch the heels for something more comfortable.

“I tried to wait, but I can’t,” she said in exchanging the heels for flats, yelling to Knight offstage to don more comfortable footwear.

The crowd roared its approval, finally getting the “shoe moment” they expected.

Other hits followed, including “The Right Kinda Lover,” “Kiss Away the Pain,” “On My Own,” “New Attitude” and “When You’ve Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven).”

Hands were raised heavenward and “amens” rang out throughout the amphitheater during the gospel-inspired “Sweetest Name I Know” and a standing ovation followed her version of Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which under LaBelle’s direction replaces a girl’s ache with a woman’s.

She closed with “Lady Marmalade,” her signature funk anthem, whose chorus “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” has been introductory French for many.

If LaBelle’s set was more emotional given the circumstances, Knight zeroed in on joy in hard times.

Opening with Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” she jumped into hit tunes with the Pips, including “Love Overboard,” “Every Beat of My Heart” and “Nitty Gritty,” which she mixed with a sample of The Jacksons “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground.)”

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

And she got an assist from the audience during “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”

“Oh, sing it if you feel like it,” she laughed, as the auditorium broke into hundreds of “mini Gladyses.”

Pacing the stage in a black ensemble, a tickled Knight remarked how “square” the late songwriting great Curtis Mayfield was before launching into his “The Makings of You” and later the soulful “On & On,” which he wrote for Knight & the Pips on their soundtrack collaboration for ‘70s movie classic “Claudine.”

“I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” and “You’re No. 1 in My Book” followed before the assembled cheered for Knight’s paean to breaking up, “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).”

Not to be outdone by LaBelle, a seated Knight became reflective of the ones who have died over the past 18 months in wrenching the sadness from Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.”

Having home-field advantage, Knight worked the crowd, throwing out names of area high schools that she and family members attended, including Washington High School, Turner High School and Archer High School.

“What a life lived,” she said before closing the evening with her trademark “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The crowd, who had been waiting for the classic all night knew it was their turn to get on board, reflectively answering Knight’s “He’s leavin’ on that midnight train to Georgia” with a collective “woo-woo.”