In spite of adversity; failed sound system on Dec 19 that caused the concert to be rescheduled for Dec 20; challenging cold snowy weather and Patti's low blood sugar attack due to her diabetes, Patti, Nona and Sarah bring home the thrill of 30 odd years into today, to a sold out Apollo Theater.
Folks show up from cities across the nation to catch the opening concert of Labelle at Harlem's Apollo that kicks off their eight-city tour in promotion of the reunion CD release, BACK TO NOW. Michael, Ralph and Richard come in from Washington, DC, Kenneth Reynolds from Los Angeles, Italian Television RAI film the event, even a few outrageous costumes sprinkle throughout the audience, numerous press writers and photographers ready their pens and cameras, everyone excited with anticipation. Labelle's crowd is here! Whoopi Goldberg brings on the trio to a standing ovation.
Patti, in a short iridescent bouffant dress with shooting plumes jutting out from the back like a bird of some kind, Nona in skin-tight black leather-like pants adorned with feathers everywhere, and Sarah in a short black dress with tall feathers projecting from her hair, take to the stage greeted by a yelling, screaming, standing crowd. Patti belts out "Miss Otis Regrets". They sing several songs penned by Nona: "Messing With My Mind", "Superlover", "Good Intentions", and "Without You In My Life." They sing "You Turn Me On" and Patti gets Nona to take off her jacket and show her 64 yr old toned body to the crowd's delight. They sing "Candlelight", and then BOOM! The sound system goes completely out!! A power surge from outside the building fries the amps. After one hour of waiting with drinks on the house, the trio comes back accompanied by a large choir to sing two acappella tunes before asking the audience to come back on Saturday, Dec 20, for the sound can not be fixed.
Saturday, Dec. 20. It's 22 degrees, icy snow on the ground with an 11-degree wind chill in the air, but amazingly the Apollo is full again. The expectant excitement though of the first night is missing. Comedian Paul Mooney, dressed like an Eskimo, warms the crowd before the trio comes on stage. No wild and crazy costumes in the audience tonight, perhaps it is just too cold outside.
Patti in a silver, short bouffant layered dress and stiletto heels, Nona in tight black shorts, big Afro hair do and thigh high boots with some fangled dangles adorning the outfit and Sarah in a short black dress, stilettos and feather hat, Patti once again belts out "Miss Otis Regrets", but then she is helped to the side of the stage and to a seat by the piano, still singing though. She then comes out to tell the audience that she is having a low blood sugar crisis. She talks about taking 4 insulin shots per day and ask if anyone in the audience has crackers or a piece of cake. Those who do not understand a low blood sugar crisis thinks it's funny so they laugh, probably thinking she is just asking for junk food. Mecca Don Villain, her Production Manager, comes to the rescue. He quickly places some chocolates on the piano for Patti. She exchanges her stilettos for flats, eats the chocolates and continues the energetic show. Once her blood sugar stabilizes she puts on another pair of stilettos as the group brakes into "Lady Marmalade" to the crowds' great pleasure. However, they do the "show biz" bit by asking three guys to come on stage to sing and dance on the tune. This is fun but it robs the folks who really want to hear Labelle do the real "Lady Marmalade" to its completion. Funny, Patti is so busy taking off and giving away her annoying eyelashes to people from the audience; she doesn't realize that Nona and Sarah left the stage for a costume change. She immediately says bye and scoots off.
During that change, a video plays of Hollywood stars and of Labelle "back in the days" in their space suits. When they come on stage again, Patti has on a ruffled bouffant purple dress with a colorful plaid cloth trailing from the back, Sarah in luscious green and black and Nona in something skin-tight black and sexy. They act out "Hollywood." They sing, "Are You Lonely?" one of the best tunes of the night from the early era that segues into "I Believe In You" with a 12 member choir, then "Get You Somebody New" as periodically Patti checks her face with a hand held mirror. They do "The System", acting out our international political situation, and close the show with "Night birds." "What Can You Do For Me?" encores.
The audience is thrilled and will be there in Feb 09 for Labelle at the Beacon. The costumes are fabulous. The music is awesome. Now they head for Chicago, Atlantic City, Detroit, LA, Oakland, Washington DC and Atlanta.
Although we missed hearing our "Lady Marmalade" like we wanted and got only a portion of "Are You Lonely," maybe they'll expand on them in subsequent concerts.
In spite of the cold wintry nights, Labelle warmed our hearts at the Apollo.