What did you do over the weekend? Play some pranks? Say goodbye to the last of the cherry blossom petals? Well I, along with a few hundred other lucky ducks, was treated to almost two hours of a living legend at the Strathmore in Bethesda. The fabulous outfits, those amazing hairstyles, and that unmistakable voice have ruled graciously for 50 years, and now I know exactly why. Patti LaBelle is magnificent on every level.
Back in high school, a good friend of mine gushed about the time that he and his parents saw Patti LaBelle in concert. He was so amused by the throngs of middle-aged Caucasians, his parents included, screaming “You go, Patti!” and “We love you, girl!” the entire night. I thought he was exaggerating, but that is exactly how Friday’s show went. From the moment Lady LaBelle tiptoed onstage in her sky high Louboutins, people of all ages and races started screaming their adoration. She just beamed and waved daintily from underneath her kimono/choir robe, revealing a gorgeous purple dress and looking nowhere near the age of 67. As soon as she made her entrance, she started singing “New Attitude” with the band that was already playing at full volume. There was no opening act because she did not need one; the crowd was beyond warmed up before the lights went down. Friday night was pure Patti.
I have loved her music since I was a child watching music videos on the weekends, but have never had the pleasure of seeing her perform her hits live. She was amazing! After making our hearts melt with “If Only You Knew,” she gave us a gentle reminder that she sang “If You Asked Me To” before Celine Dion, and then sang it with her signature passion. Her performance of “Love, Need and Want You” (the song that Nelly and Kelly Rowland sampled for “Dilemma”) was prefaced in a similar fashion. She is a diva, but she has definitely earned the right to say and sing what she wants. She kept the fans yelling with abbreviated versions of her best love songs, including “Somebody Loves You” and her duet with Michael Macdonald, “On My Own.” Her remarkable talent was most evident when she stepped away from the microphone during “Two Steps Away” and just sang her heart out, her voice reaching every corner of the auditorium. The band quieted down for once so we could finally hear her sing, and it was magical. I only wish they had been a little less dominant throughout the evening, because even though Patti does not belt out high notes and hold them for an insane amount of time the way she used to, her tone and pitch are still perfect. I spent half the evening trying to isolate her still-powerful voice from the boisterous backup vocals and instrumentation.
Despite their overly enthusiastic performances, all of the musicians on the stage did an excellent job of entertaining and their excitement was infectious. Plenty of people got up and danced during their intro to “Lady Marmalade,” and when Patti asked for three men to join her onstage, one fan rushed to her as if his seat was on fire. Like the seasoned performer she is, Patti kindly informed him that he needed to wait until he was called, but let him volunteer anyway. She also welcomed a fan who had given her flowers (and whose card she read in between songs) earlier in the show to stand next to her. It was obvious that all three were thrilled to be so close to a musical icon, just as everyone else in the hall was.
If you EVER have the chance to see Patti LaBelle live, go! I guarantee you will have the time of your life. Patti LaBelle radiates positive energy and her musical gift can create an atmosphere of hysteria like a 20-something pop star. You go, Patti!
Final Grade: A
TRR Concert Revue by Stephanie Taylor