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Gospel diva Sandi Patty bids D.C. farewell with hit-packed concert

It’s a bittersweet period for fans of gospel legend Sandi Patty who brought her “Forever Grateful Farewell Tour” to Takoma Park, Md., last weekend



Sandi Patty brought her 'Forever Grateful Farewell Tour' to the D.C. area last weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

Sandi Patty brought her ‘Forever Grateful Farewell Tour’ to the D.C. area last weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

It’s a bittersweet period for fans of gospel legend Sandi Patty, who brought her “Forever Grateful Farewell Tour” to Takoma Park, Md., last weekend.

Though her bread and butter and greatest fame was among white U.S. evangelicals, she never shunned gays (which is more than we could say for Anita Bryant) and though always careful to never say anything too overtly supportive — she’d rocked her base enough with an early ‘90s divorce and paid a huge price for it — she’s had gays in her camp for years and never batted an eye at her legions of gay fans.

Returning to the same church (Sligo Seventh-day Adventist) where she wrapped her “Everlasting Tour” last year at this time, Patty — this was the 70th show of her 120-city tour slated to wrap with a San Juan cruise in early 2017 — pulled out all the stops and delivered her most elaborate stage show since her “Le Voyage”-era shows circa 1993.

In recent years, most non-seasonal Patty concerts have consisted of her singing to tracks while longtime pianist Steve Potts accompanied her (though “Another Time Another Place Tour” vet Jay Rouse has been with her the last couple years). On a lucky night, the church choir would back her on a few numbers. But for this show, Patty has a four-piece band, several family members doubling as backup singers (including husband Don Peslis and son Jon Helvering), the five-man “popera” group Veritas and on many if not all nights, a choir as well. The lighting and video, featuring many classic Patty career clips, is also far more elaborate than in recent years.

Only a curmudgeon would balk at the set list which featured a robust array of Patty classics such as the tender “In Heaven’s Eyes,” gospel barn-burner (and Patty concert staple) “Yes God is Real,” sing-along classic “Love in Any Language” and, of course, “We Shall Behold Him,” the 1982 GMA song of the year that was Patty’s first big hit (though she’d made her major-label debut in 1979).

While some may lament that too many classics like “Upon This Rock” or “Let There Be Praise” were glossed over in mere seconds in several lengthy medleys, it covered a lot of classic ground the same way it’s done at a Janet Jackson concert. Sure, if somebody like Bruce Springsteen took this approach, it would sound like a groan-inducing sellout or lounge act, but since so many of Patty’s most-loved songs are stylistically similar and feature rafter-raising (and vocally taxing) climaxes that make Celine Dion’s material sound positively reserved, it made sense to take the medley approach. Especially effective was a few lines of “The Day He Wore My Crown” added to the “Via Dolorosa” medley since the spring leg of the tour and a duets medley that found the jaw-droppingly talented Veritas guys standing in impressively for Larnelle Harris and Wayne Watson on Patty’s classic duets.

Sandi Patty's farewell tour is her most elaborate concert production since the early '90s. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

Sandi Patty’s farewell tour is her most elaborate concert production since the early ’90s. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

Although it’s nice to see material from Patty’s latest (and she claims final) studio album “Forever Grateful” included such as “Anthem of Praise” and “All I Gotta Do,” perhaps a better choice for the latter slot would have been a medley of “Face to Faith,” “Willing to Wait,” “Someone Up There Loves Me,” “Pour on the Power” and maybe “Somebody Believed,” those tear-it-up gospel numbers Patty was always so great at delivering. Or maybe even an alternate praise medley with second-tier hits like “Shine Down,” “King of Glory” and “Come Let’s Worship Him.” Oh well — when you have a 35-year body of work to pull from, you can’t cover everything. The only legit complaint was that the choir wasn’t high enough in the sound mix and got lost more often than not.

Patty was in resplendent voice throughout. At 60, her robust soprano sounds as booming as ever. She does sound different than she did 30 years ago — there’s a heavier body to her timbre than there used to be but for me it’s a handy tradeoff. She may have had a more bell-like clarion purity to her vocals back then, but there was also a slight brassiness to her upper register that, to my ear, has been calibrated by age. She said in a pre-show Q&A session that wanted to go out on top and not be one of those singers who hung on too long. Ehhhh, I see what she’s saying but hate to see her hanging it up when the money notes are still so gloriously there.

I’m hoping, of course, that she’ll pull a Cher or Tina Turner on us and after five or seven years of home life and grandkids realize she misses the thrill of the crowd, or at least the pull of the studio. Even when eschewing her trademark high notes on lower-key albums like “Simply Sandi” or “Christmas Blessings,” Patty is always compelling. While it left many fans cold, the latter, a 2014 release that was her jazziest effort ever, made for enticing evidence that she might be wholly compelling and convincing doing non-seasonal material in that vein. A stool, a little jazz combo, some standards — she could totally pull it off.

However if she is content to raise heirloom tomatoes or teach (which she will be doing) or whatever, she has more than earned the right having spent 35 years schlepping around the country. Her oeuvre is a staggering body of work, especially from, oh, say 1981-1993, a particularly white-hot decade-plus that stands the test of time the same way the Beatles canon or the Beethoven sonatas do.

Patty was peerless because she was the right artist at the right time with the right voice and the right drive with access to the best songwriters, producers (especially Greg Nelson) and arrangers at a time when she enjoyed a nice, long run before the internet started eating savagely into budgets and major record labels.

Sandi Patty with (in back from left) Scott Lawrence and James Berrian of the group Veritas and her son Jonathan Helvering, a gifted singer in his own right. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

Sandi Patty with (in back from left) Scott Lawrence and James Berrian of the group Veritas and her son Jonathan Helvering, a gifted singer in his own right. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

And nobody ever talks about this, but her heyday also happened to be when big was in. It’s no coincidence that “Dallas” — and everything’s bigger in Texas — was the biggest show of the ‘80s right at the time Patty was belting out “We Shall Behold Him” and “Upon This Rock.” The planets aligned and she didn’t just hit the gospel music zeitgest, she was it. And yet — another oft-missed point — you never felt bludgeoned by her. As an adult, I’ve come to admire her tender moments like “There is a Savior” and “O Calvary’s Lamb” to a degree approaching the big stuff.

Her career eventually self-corrected to the point that she was by the 2010s probably about where she would have been anyway had her divorce from John Helvering — whose mug is curiously whitewashed from the tourbook and flashback photos, though he was at her Ohio concert two weeks ago — not wiped the luster off her ‘80s dominance (she never won a Grammy, had an RIAA certification for gold or platinum or filled an arena on her own after that). Personal travails notwithstanding, it coincided with a period of artistic experimentation on albums like “Find it On the Wings” and “These Days” that didn’t always fully jell. But of course you expect that in any lengthy career. Her lowest lows artistically were never egregious. There was always something to love on every album.

But for a moment last Sunday night, it might as well have been 1986 or 1988 again and Patty held court in all her glory. For us long-time total geek-out fans, she has enriched our lives immeasurably.

1. Anthem of Praise
2. Praise Medley
3. MEDLEY: Agnus Dei/A Mighty Fortress/All Hail the Power (Veritas)
4. Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee
5. Love Will Be Our Home
6. Farther Along
7. The Prayer
* testimony
8. In Heaven’s Eyes
9. MEDLEY: Upon This Rock/They Could Not/In the Name of the Lord/How Great Thou Art
* Star-Spangled Banner video montage
10. I Can Only Imagine (Veritas)
11. The Lord’s Prayer (Veritas)
12. Love in Any Language
13. All I Gotta Do
14. Yes, God is Real
15. MEDLEY: Another Time, Another Place/More Than Wonderful/I’ve Just Seen Jesus
16. Revelation Song
17. MEDLEY: The Day He Wore My Crown/Via Dolorosa/The Old Rugged Cross
18. We Shall Behold Him
19. It Is Well With My Soul
20. How We Love (Beth Nielsen Chapman cover)
* In the In-Between was performed at a pre-concert Q&A session


Music & Concerts

The Atlantis to showcase musical legends of tomorrow

New venue, a near replica of original 9:30 Club, opens next month



A look at the interior of the original 9:30 club. (Photo public domain/Library of Congress)

A new nirvana for music fans opens next month adjacent to the 9:30 Club. Dubbed The Atlantis, this intimate venue embraces a 450-person capacity – and pays homage as a near-replica of the original 9:30 Club.

The $10 million venue comes courtesy of I.M.P., the independent promoter that owns and operates the 9:30 Club and The Anthem, and operates The Lincoln Theatre and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The Foo Fighters will inaugurate The Atlantis on May 30, which is also the 9:30 Club’s anniversary. Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl, during a concert in 2021, kicked off speculation that I.M.P was planning to open a new venue, noting that, “We’ll probably be the band that opens that place, too, right?”

Other big names on the inaugural 44-show run roster: Franz Ferdinand, Barenaked Ladies, Third Eye Blind, Spoon, and Billy Idol.

To thwart scalpers, The Atlantis utilized a request system for the first 44 shows when they went on sale two weeks ago. Within four days of the announcement, fans had requested more than 520,000 tickets, many times more than the total 19,800 available. All tickets have been allocated; fans who were unable to snag tickets can attempt to do so in May, when a fan-to-fan ticket exchange opens.

While I.M.P. oversees multiple larger venues, “We’ve been doing our smallest shows in other peoples’ venues for too many years now,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. “We needed a place that’s ours. This can be the most exciting step in an artist’s career.”

The 9:30 Club holds 1,200 people, while The Anthem has space for up to 6,000.

“This will be where we help introduce new artists to the world… our smallest venue will be treated as important, if not more, than our bigger venues. If the stories are told right, both the artists and the fans begin their hopefully longterm relationship. Its stage will support bourgeoning artists and the legends of tomorrow,” Hurwitz said. Hurwitz and the team developed a tagline for the new venue: The Atlantis, Where Music Begins.

Hurwitz got his start at the original 9:30 Club, originally located at 930 F St., N.W. He was an independent booker of the club for the first six years and then he bought it, and managed the move from its original location to its current location in 1996. The venue first opened in 1980.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, I.M.P. communications director, provides further insight. “We were missing small venues in our umbrella. Big acts don’t start in stadiums. We need a place for emerging artists and for the community to discover new acts. The Atlantis can help new artists grow.”

While design elements are still coming into focus, Schaefer says that the space will be intimate, with almost no separation between the artist and the crowd. “There will be energy on both sides of the stage,” she says.

Although The Atlantis is set to be a replica of the original 9:30, I.M.P. has spared no expense. Schaefer notes that the sound and light systems use the latest available technologies, similar to next door at the current 9:30 Club.

The Atlantis takes over the footprint of now-closed Satellite Room. The venue will have at least two bars flanking the stage; cocktails but no food will be available.

Schaefer notes that since its early days, 9:30 Club and I.M.P. “has always been a place where people are welcome. People come and feel safe with us.” 9:30 Club has hosted several LGBTQ Pride parties, the BENT dance party series, and other events for LGBTQ patrons. Particular acts of note during the kickoff run include Tegan & Sarah and Tove Lo.

The Washington Blade was a neighbor to the 9:30 Club at its original F Street location back in the 1980s. Despite their proximity, noise wasn’t an issue for on deadline nights, when Blade staff worked late hours.

“We would of course work later hours back then,” said Phil Rockstroh, a longtime Blade staffer, in a 2016 Blade interview. “Everything was typeset and done by hand without computers and fax machines so getting through deadlines was much more time consuming.”

Rockstroh said the noise wasn’t a distraction.

“It wasn’t too bad as older buildings were constructed more solidly,” Rockstroh said. “There was only one entrance to the building and you entered so far to the elevator that went up to the other floors and then continued down the hall to the entrance to the 9:30 Club. Frequently at night if I was coming or going, there were people spilling out the doors.”

“The Blade has always had a friendly relationship with the 9:30 Club,” he added.

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Music & Concerts

National Philharmonic to perform classical, contemporary works

Violinist Melissa White returns



The National Philharmonic will host “Beethoven’s 7th” on Saturday, April 15 at 8 p.m. at Strathmore.

Past and present will collide in this performance of contemporary works and classical masterpieces. Maestro Piotr Gajewski will direct Valerie Coleman’s “Umoja, Anthem for Unity for Orchestra” Violinist Melissa White will also return to the Philharmonic to perform Florence Price’s sweeping, melodic “Violin Concerto No. 2.”

Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased on the Philharmonic’s website.

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Music & Concerts

Bruce & Janet & John Legend, oh my!

Slew of iconic acts hitting the road after pandemic cancellations



Janet Jackson is among the iconic acts touring this spring.

Pop and rock icons are releasing their pent-up pandemic frustrations by mounting huge tours this spring and summer. After three years of canceled and postponed shows, everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Janet Jackson is hitting the road at long last. But save your coins because the TicketMaster algorithms are driving ticket prices to astronomical highs. Here are a few highlights from D.C.-area venues this spring. Although some of the iconic acts aren’t coming until summer — Beyonce, Madonna, Pink — several others are hitting the road this spring.

Betty Who plays March 10; Keyshia Cole headlines the All Black Extravaganza 20 Year Anniversary tour on March 18; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to town on May 3; Seal brings his world tour to town on May 10; and the beloved Pixies are back on the road with a new North American tour stopping here on June 10.

9:30 CLUB
Don’t miss Gimme Gimme Disco, an Abba dance party on March 18; Inzo arrives on March 31, followed by Bent on April 1; Ruston Kelly brings his The Weakness tour on April 17 along with Purr; The New Pornographers show on May 19 is sold out but there are tickets available for the May 20 show; The Walkmen have added a fourth show on May 23 because the other three shows are sold our;

Living legend Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back with a vengeance, playing one of four area shows on March 27. (They’re in Baltimore the night before.) If you missed out this time, don’t worry, Bruce is playing Nats Park in September as well as at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. April 1 brings the R&B Music Experience, including Xscape, Monica, Tamar Braxton, and 112. Blink-182 comes to town on May 23. And this summer watch for Sam Smith to continue his hot streak, bringing his “Gloria” tour to town on Aug.4.

Janet Jackson makes her highly anticipated return to the stage this spring, arriving in our area on May 6 along with guest Ludacris. The LGBTQ ally and icon has promised new music on her upcoming “Together Again Tour,” which follows the pandemic-related cancellation of her “Black Diamond Tour.” Jackson also plays Baltimore’s newly renovated CFG Bank Arena on May 13.

John Legend plays two nights at Wolf Trap on June 2 and 3; Charlie Puth follows on June 4. Wolf Trap also hosts the Indigo Girls on June 7 just in time for Pride month. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Smithereens at the Birchmere on March 17. Fans of ‘80s alternative will be lined up for the Church also at the Birchmere at April 4, followed by Suzanne Vega on April 26. Amy Grant returns to the stage this spring and plays the Birchmere on May 2. Echostage plays host to a slew of buzz worthy shows this spring, including Ella Mai on April 8 and Fisher on May 12.

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