“On a Scale of 1 to 10, She’s a 1000!” Patti LaBelle LIVE! at STNJ
By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery
Music lovers inside the historic State Theatre New Jersey auditorium in New Brunswick, NJ this Thursday, December 1, 2022 evening are ready to celebrate the season with the “Godmother of Soul,” Patti LaBelle.
Sarah Chaplin, President and CEO of STNJ, invites concertgoers to “welcome in the holidays” with Patti LaBelle. She acknowledges the theater’s donors and sponsors before thanking patrons for choosing to attend live performances here in the venue’s beautifully restored performance space.
Disc jockey DJ Aktive takes the stage and spins to a video on a screen above him showing clips of Patti LaBelle performing over the years. The crowd responds with hoots and hollers and calls of “Oh, yeah!” as he plays snippets of their favorite LaBelle hits.
DJ Aktive asks, “Are you ready to party with Patti LaBelle?” as backup singers and musicians take their places and perform the intro to “Something Special (Is Gonna Happen Tonight).”
Music lovers stand as Patti LaBelle enters in a red satin dress. Sounding strong and powerful, La Belle, 78, sings, “Something special is gonna happen tonight/I want you to know that/Something special is gonna happen tonight/I promise something good for you,” on this upbeat and funky number.
Segueing into the R&B ballad, “Be Yourself,” lights dance and accent the groove before Patti shakes her hips to the disco beat of “Music is My Way of Life.” Sax and trumpet wail and backup vocalists sing in harmony supporting LaBelle’s energetic and soulful lead. Before concluding the song, Patti looks at herself in a handheld mirror, eliciting cheers from the crowd.
LaBelle recognizes the members of her band, singers, and crew, stating, “I have so many nice people working with me!” She welcomes the audience exclaiming, “Hey, New Jersey. Thank you!” before dedicating her next song to the late Sarah Dash, a member of Patti’s original group, The Blue Belles.
On the R&B ballad “Love, Need, and Want You,” audience members sing along with LaBelle’s backup vocalists on the “Love and need and want you, baby” refrain as Patti improvises with power, accompanied by the full orchestral sound of her band.
On “Right Kinda Lover,” LaBelle cries, “He’s the right kinda lover/I’ll never need another/Sho’ nuff he’s got the stuff/He’s the right kinda lover for me.” Band members clap along and back up singers dance in place on this infectious pop tune which generates shouts of approval from the crowd.
Patti thanks the audience before a fan comes up to give her a bouquet of flowers. Lights swirl on the stage as the band plays the intro to LaBelle’s 1984 #1 R&B hit, “If You Only Knew.” Patti dances to the audience’s delight on this rhythmic ballad, and music lovers join in as she sings, “If only you knew/How much I do/Do love you.”
Following a lyrical sax solo, the band crescendoes with LaBelle feeding off the energy and soulfully vocalizing, bringing people to their feet.
Another fan gives Patti flowers as she launches into the funky “When You Talk About Love.”
Trumpet and sax solo downstage as LaBelle kicks off her shoes and dances holding the train of her red satin ensemble. As her backup singers dance and rap, Patti dances in sync with them and DJ Aktive gets concertgoers to join in happily shouting, “Oh, yeah!”
LaBelle puts on a new pair of heels and asks to put the house lights on so she can see the audience. Taking a moment to catch her breath, fans call out, “Take your time!” and “We can wait!” before Patti says, “I want to wish you a Merry Christmas” and explains that her next number comes from her 1990 Christmas album.
On the touching ballad, “It’s Going to Be a Merry Christmas,” LaBelle’s voice floats effortlessly above the band’s lush arrangement.
Rays of white light illuminate LaBelle’s vocal on the R&B power ballad, “Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is),” and Patti dances as another fan brings her flowers.
DJ Active spins discs and music lovers sing along to such classic hits as The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” The Commodores’ “Brick House,” Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Up,” and Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” as LaBelle leaves the stage for a short break.
DJ Aktive says, “Make some noise!” and the theater is filled with LaBelle’s voice as she returns to sing her 1986 hit, “On My Own.” Following this duet which she originally recorded with singer Michael McDonald, a fan calls out, “I love you, Patti!” LaBelle responds by telling concertgoers about how rough the past few years have been, but still points out how grateful she is to be able to say each day, “I woke up this morning.”
Here, LaBelle and Co. perform a selection of gospel numbers including “He Cares,” featuring backup vocalist Brenda Roy, and “When You’ve Been Blessed,” where Patti lets her backup singers shine as they sing, “It’s a garden of music/It’s a garden of love/ And we are all his children.” Ending with “Thank You, Lord,” featured backup singer Debra Henry Ramsey impresses with her full voice as a fan brings a picture to the stage and La Belle autographs it before kissing it.
For her final number of the evening, “You Are My Friend,” LaBelle cries, “You are my friend/I never knew it until then/My friend” on this slow ballad.
The song builds into a cacophony of sound before La Belle throws her mic stand onto the stage floor and kicks off her shoes as she and the band build to a triumphant ending which brings music lovers to their feet.
Audience members stand for an encore performance of LaBelle’s 1974 #1 hit, “Lady Marmalade,” where Patti invites a young man from the audience to dance on stage and asks Alex, an 11-year-old boy, to sing. After segueing into Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” LaBelle’s backup vocalists sing along with Alex as Patti gathers up her flowers and hugs Alex before waving and exiting the stage.
As concertgoers make their way out of the auditorium, we chat with several audience members who share their thoughts on Patti LaBelle’s performance this evening. Declares Tahesha from Perth Amboy, “I loved it! Patti is so energetic, and she put on a great show.” Georgette from Perth Amboy agrees, exclaiming, “She was awesome! This was my first time seeing her and it was worth the wait. I would definitely travel to see her again.”
John from Woodbridge asserts, “This was my first Patti LaBelle concert and her voice is amazing! She’s 78 years old and she doesn’t miss a beat.” Recalling, “I’ve been a lover of Patti LaBelle since I was a child,” John explains, “I knew every song and I was singing along,” before concluding, “It was like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday all wrapped up in one!”
Terri from Clifton reveals, “I’ve loved Patti LaBelle forever — she’s incredible! She has so much heart and spirit, and to celebrate life with her tonight was just amazing!” Rosa from Burlington Twp. concurs, insisting, “She was fabulous and beautiful. I’ve loved her all my life, and this was my first time seeing her. She gave of herself to the audience and everyone had a wonderful time!”
Lastly, we chat with Darren from Newark, the fan in the audience who received an autograph from Patti during the show. Recalls Darren, “I’ve been an admirer of Patti ever since I was a little kid, and I was so surprised when I got an autograph from her tonight,” before exclaiming, “On a scale of 1 to 10, she’s a 1000!”
To learn more about Patti LaBelle, please go to pattilabelle.com. For information on upcoming shows at New Brunswick’s STNJ — including Linda Eder on January 22, Boyz II Men on February 10, America on March 3, and Patti LuPone on March 25 — please click on stnj.org.