“Girl, you are wearing that drag!” said Miss Patti Labelle to one of an endless stream of stagefront admirers at Thursday’s over the top concert of the reunited Labelle at the Beacon Theater in NYC. Aaron and I had great seats just a few rows behind none other than Ashford and Simpson themselves. Fancy! The audience mostly comprised keening gay men in their late 40’s and 50’s and dressed-to-the-nines African American glitterati. Mink coats and hats abounded – including on one nonagenarian in a wheelchair (plus a mink hat.) Rough Gods photographer Michael Alago was seated next to me, drag impresario Joey Arias was a few rows away (and was called out from the stage by Patti.) And there was a posse of JMG readers in the house – hello to Ralph, Alberto, and Wilson. Swag tickets winner Mark and his hubby were down front.
The show was, as you might expect, a two hour love fest that began moments after Labelle was introduced by Joy Behar. Kicking off with Miss Otis Regrets , the ladies rollicked through most of their new album Back To Now and tore up their classic Can I Speak To Before You Go To Hollywood? As is tradition, they brought up three volunteers from the audience to share vocal duties on Lady Marmalade. However, unlike their show at last fall’s Out 100 Awards, there was no Wilson Cruz in the house for a proper battle this time.
As noted by the title of this post, Patti was nonstop with gay references and lingo, she clearly knows who’s kept her in the limelight all these years. She even asked one well-aged gentleman if he recalled having seen the ladies perform with Bette Midler at the Continental Baths. Throughout the show, verklempt gay men streamed to the lip of the stage to present flowers and gifts. No opening act, no intermission, just three divas in their mid-60’s whom you can easily see going on for another 20 years – especially when the cat-like Nona Hendryx pounced to the top of the drum kit to keep the beat with her feet.
Almost outshining Labelle was the fabulously remodeled Beacon Theater, which has to be seen to be believed. After a $16M facelift, the venue reopened two weeks ago to agog reviews from both music fans and design critics. While the ladies of Labelle and the Beacon may be in their dotage, all are extremely well preserved.