I had two firsts last week: I ate a Patti Cake and I saw Patti LaBelle perform live.
Patti’s Good Life Caramel Cake is soothing, unique in flavor and each layer is crafted so well you want more. And just like her baking products, the 72-years-young singer still has all the ingredients to more than satisfy a packed crowd. She also demonstrated she can still hit and stretch a note so high the German shepherds in St. Paul could perk their ears to hear the living legend.
The three-time Grammy winner and 11-time nominee, born Patricia Louise Holt, began her career as a teenager singing with the Ordettes, who later became Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles known for their hit “Lady Marmalade.” Later, going solo with “If Only You Knew” and her tracks on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack (1984) “New Attitude” and “Stir It Up” brought LaBelle to pop status. Acting in critically acclaimed A Soldier’s Story (1984), selling out Broadway and her Billboard #1 hit “On My Own” made her an icon.
During her stunning performance Saturday at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, which opened with “New Attitude,” the Godmother of Soul was backed by three singers in her choir and a band of seven, including pianists, a bass player, a guitarist and drummers. Living up to her stage name LaBelle, which is French for beauty, sparkled the crowd with her gold sequin dress.
“I love this place,” she said of Minnesota. “I haven’t been here in a while.”
Among the many fans that came to see LaBelle, actor and Minnesota resident Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters and Butter) and local comedian and commercial celebrity Fancy Ray were in attendance. LaBelle promised to go “way back” with her music selection and that it would be a “fun, fun” night. She did not hold back.
In only her second song of the night she not only hit but stretched the high note on “If Only You Knew,” receiving a well-deserved round of applause. She only took a brief sip of tea before moving into her next song.
She gave a shoutout to singer Celine Dion before performing “If You Asked Me To,” which Dion famously covered. “But don’t get it twisted. I did it first,” LaBelle said of the song for which she recorded the music video to the day after burying her third sister, shedding real tears in her video. After, she asked, “I love singing ballads—do you mind?” And of course the crowd let her know she could sing whatever she wanted.
Throughout the evening, she directed the spotlight on various members of her band to give them a solo opportunity and showcase how good they were, starting with background singer Debbie Henry, a friend of 32 years. One performer happened to be celebrating his 50th birthday. Her lone male background singer took the place of Michael McDonald, and together he and LaBelle performed “On My Own” center stage.
“It’s a real family,” she said about her band and choir.
Changing shoes throughout the performance, she literally kicked off a pair in the middle of performing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” drawing “woo’s” from the crowd. That same crowd was on their feet and singing along when LaBelle moved into gospel with “Total Praise.”
While singing “Lady Marmalade,” the 2015 Dancing with the Stars contestant showed she could still sway side to side, with her one-two step. LaBelle is known for her crowd interactions during live performances, and this concert was no exception: during the song, she brought up three men from the audience up on stage with her. Her first guest, Wayne, was honored to have LaBelle rock his navy-blue-sequin jacket for 30 seconds as they sang and danced together.
She asked the next man, “Could you sing?” Richard, originally from Chicago, brought down the house singing the French lyrics to the song as LaBelle danced. Her third guest couldn’t sing, but she led him in vocalizing, and together they danced to the classic hit. The crowd noise was through the roof during this segment.
Wrapping up to the tune of “Over the Rainbow,” LaBelle paid tribute to the many artists, friends and family members who passed away over the years. Her performance left with the crowd wanting more but grateful they experienced a Patti Patti “fun, fun” concert.
By Gino Terrell