WASHINGTON, June 23, 2015 – Patti LaBelle had a goodly sized Sunday evening Wolf Trap crowd up on its feet before her show had even begun. Her fans became even more passionately energetic and enthused when the widely-acknowledged Queen of Soul stepped into the lights from off stage, emerging in her trademark feathered cape. Her distinctive, soaring voice announced her regal presence even before the audience could see her.
What made this scene remarkable was not that Miss Patti, as she is known to fans, got those fans moving, but that she got them moving in what was nothing short of that famous DC area brand of stifling summer heat and humidity that engulfed Wolf Trap’s outdoor venue.
On the other hand, a hot and sultry night was a perfect night to listen the equally sultry Diva of soul. Fans dealt with the weather, fanning themselves with their fans or programs, batting the air and creating a bit of a stir. A truly remarkable performer, Miss Patti, in turn, had her own fans keeping her feathers and fringe throughout her set.
Similarly her nine back up musicians – lead by John Stanley − offered a classy and classic performance of beloved songs geared to please her ravenous fans, including Love, Need and Want You, Little Girls, Lady Marmalade, On My Own and Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
Somewhere between On My Own and Somewhere Over The Rainbow, the 71 year-old songstress gave into the heat, kicked off her heels, asked for icewater and checked her makeup in the mirror. Sitting in the intimate confines of the Wolf Traps Filene Center, Miss Patti made it feel like we were her special invited guests.
The only complaint one might have voiced Sunday was with how the Filene Center’s usually excellent sound system was being deployed. When first stepping on the stage, the star’s voice was rich, sonorous, the way everyone expected it to be. But for some inexplicable reason, the sound person running the board mixed her voice so thin as the evening went on that when she spoke, she sounded a bit like Minnie Mouse. Perceiving this, alert members of her very capable band seemed to hold back their output so as not to walk over Miss LaBelle.
Aside from this, this concert was a joyful gathering. Miss Patti truly seemed to be enjoying her continued fame, which most recently has included her participation in the past season of Dancing With The Stars (she was paired with Artem) and American Horror Story.
One particularly memorable moment in the concert occurred when Miss Patti offered a call for prayer… “We are losing people – Chattanooga, Charleston … We are not loving each other enough. Black or white, gay or straight we all need to start loving each other and praying more.” Amen.
Before starting in on Lady Marmalade, the barefooted LaBelle stepped over to the piano. Choosing a pair of stilettos from among the six pairs sitting there − which, based on their universally red soles, I would venture, are Christian Louboutin − she commenced to get her disco diva on. She invited three men on stage.
The first, Joseph, gets points for getting up there and trying.
The second, Dennis, could sing. And sing well.
The third, Brooklyn (aka Sean), a man seated in the first few rows with whom Miss Patti had been interacting with during her performance, was a bit less impressive. He could not sing, nor could he dance, very well. And he got promptly schooled by Miss Patti who, announcing she could smell the vodka on his breath, informed him “Brooklyn, don’t you ever come on my stage drunk again…”
Patti LaBelle is a classic artist with a lot of class, and is a consummate professional entertainer on stage. Sunday here at Wolf Trap, she put on a show in torrid summer weather that would tire any woman half her age. She was continually gracious to the audience and to her band, and was warm and honest throughout her show, making even a first timer feel welcome in the Church of Patti.