Stilettos, style and talent have no age limit.
The legendary Patti LaBelle performed at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park on June 23 for the first time since 2006. The 72-year-old songstress strutted onto the stage that was decorated as a living room complete with a love seat. She opened with her signature hit, “New Attitude” as the crowd greeted her with a standing ovation.
Though there were issues with sound early in the performance, LaBelle didn’t let it stop her from belting the most memorable portions of “If Only You Knew.” Every “oh” and “if” was highlighted by an audience that was grateful just to be able to witness her singing prowess in person.
LaBelle, wearing stilettos and a navy dress that highlighted every twist and hip shake, sang hits back-to-back, including “Somebody Loves You Baby” and 1989s “If You Asked Me To,” where she held out the final notes for what seemed like a million seconds. In between songs she checked herself in the mirror, ensuring the classic Patti-bob was still intact.
LaBelle and her band gave the crowd samples of hits from seasoned and younger artists, providing something for the various age groups in the audience. A bit of Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” was intertwined with LaBelle’s “When You Talk About Love.” LaBelle also sang a few words from Adele’s “Hello” and later covered Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” adding a gospel twist.
The singer shared her sparkling microphone and the spotlight with her background singers and band, providing them all a spot for solos.
Before going into the 1984 hit, “Love, Need and Want You,” LaBelle acknowledged other artists who have sampled the song, but with a quick reminder.
“But, don’t ever get it twisted,” she said. “I did it first.”
LaBelle ended the song to roaring applause and took a pause after getting emotional and shedding tears. She gathered herself to perform “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” a song she said she’s been singing for 40 years.
This was the climax of the show where the heels came off. After declaring how she cleaned the house, changed her dress and made her man a Patti Pie, LaBelle kicked off the stilettos. The crowd jumped to its feet, screaming and in awe of the power and strength in the voice and body of this legendary woman.
LaBelle and crew gave the audience a bit of everything. Encouragement with gospel-inspired songs. Hope for restoration with “On My Own.” And, spunk with “Lady Marmalade,” where she brought four male fans on stage to sing a few bars of the 1975 track. Comedic and fun, that portion of the show ended with one man singing he “needed some of them pies” and another wowing the crowd with his dance moves.
Performing “Somewhere Over The rainbow” led LaBelle to bend low with the mic and throw the mic stand as she used her vocal cords that seemed to not have aged a bit. Prior to the grand finale, LaBelle sang a medley of “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Lead Me Lord.”
The singer closed the show with a tribute to family and friends. While she sang “You Are My Friend,” fans saw photos of celebrities including Minnie Riperton, Maurice White, Natalie Cole and Isaac Hayes as well as LaBelle’s family members who have passed away.
The solemn ending was the perfect illustration of LaBelle’s gratitude to those she has encountered during her life and more than 50 years in the entertainment industry.
LaBelle, a 2016 Marian Anderson Award winner, showcased why she’s truly the Godmother of Soul and one of the greatest vocalists of all time.
Before LaBelle, The Commodores took the stage. With a band to support members William King, Walter Orange and J.D. Nicholas, the 48-year-old group amazed the crowd with their energy. With choreography, impressive instrument play and vocals as smooth as Sunday morning, The Commodores had the audience moving with their biggest hits including “Lady,” “Nightshift,” and “Brick House.”
While our favorite stars may get older, their gifts to us on stage continue to have the same impact as they did years ago.
Don’t get it twisted.
by Jasmine Cannon