The one and only Patti LaBelle returned to The Music Center at Strathmore on Friday, March 30, 2012, where she promptly and proudly announced that she was 67 years old and “in it to win.” She wasn’t kidding, which may be the reason that she hasn’t had time to let it sink in that she is already running the victory lap.
The show opened to cheers as Patti, flashing her signature legs in dangerously high heels and a tight fitting mini-dress, walked out on stage singing her Grammy-nominated R&B hit “New Attitude.” Patti LaBelle was in peak form. She’s smart, talented, beautiful, and polished, and with fifty years of experience under her belt, she doesn’t miss a beat anywhere.
LaBelle’s seven-piece band and three back-up singers are exceptionally talented both individually and collectively. Her music director and pianist John Stanley (who also doubles as her 4th backup singer) leads this tight group wherever it needs to go, and always with energy that really moves the show forward.
Throughout the night, LaBelle and her group performed an impressive and high-energy mix of LaBelle’s hits and “other” hits associated with “other” singers, including “You Are My Friend,” “Over the Rainbow,” “If You Asked Me To,” and “Two Steps Away.”
By way of introduction to some of her songs, LaBelle shared some of her personal life with the Strathmore audience, and they seemed to love her all the more for it. It did not go unappreciated that despite her seemingly glamorous life, her beloved sisters and her mother all died of cancer within a short period of time and her marriage of 32 years ended. Neither did it go unnoticed that she stopped her show to thank a hard-working stagehand and to point out how he had been running all night long to do everything that needs to happen in a show like hers.
Showing a fun and playful side, LaBelle invited three men onstage, all of whom indicated that they could sing and dance. While it turned out that none of them could sing and that their dancing abilities were questionable at best, one of the guys was so funny in his general mannerisms that the whole effort was worth it just to see LaBelle’s facial expressions as she watched him run to the stage. He was hysterically funny, and he brought the house down.
LaBelle is no stranger to the ‘show’ in ‘show business,’ but what comes through loud and clear (even over a sound system that did need to come down a notch or three) is that with or without multi-media, and with or without any sound system at all, she and everybody in her group are musical pros with very, very big talent.
Patti LaBelle is at the top of her game. However, with all her great talent and shining spirit, she did not achieve fast fame in the recording business. Perhaps she is deservedly running the victory lap because she learned long ago what it means to be ‘in it to win.’ There are no second, third, or fourth takes in live concerts. She learned what she knows performing live, and it shows. There is nothing that happens on that stage or out in an audience that she does not know or understand, and she clearly thrives on all of it. She’s the ‘real deal,’ and she deserves all of the applause and accolades coming her way. She might be on the victory lap, but let’s hope that she remembers that the lap can last for as long as she wants it to last.
Next up at Strathmore:
Kevin Costner and Modern West
Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 8:00 PM
Music Center at Strathmore
Patti LaBelle’s webste.