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Music & Concerts

Sophie B. Hawkins D.C. concert great — just way too short

Long-out singer/songwriter previewed several new tunes at last weekend’s Jammin’ Java mini-set



SOPHIE B. HAWKING with son DASHIELL (background) and local fan DJ MATT BAILER last weekend at Jammin’ Java. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

It was a cruel twist of fate that resulted in Sophie B. Hawkins’ first concert in the D.C. region in more than a decade being a shared co-bill with Ellis Paul. He was delightful, just not Sophie.

But then being a Hawkins fan in general has been a bit of a frustrating experience in recent years. Known mainly for two ’90s mega hits, her output has grown lean in recent years. Her last album was 2012’s “The Crossing.” She previewed several new songs from a finished (or nearly finished) album she has yet to release at last weekend’s show at Jammin’ Java, an inviting, yet somewhat boisterous venue in Vienna, Va. (the crowd was mostly engaged and respectful yet the bar cash register clanged noisily throughout the set; how could this issue remain unresolved at a music venue? Odd).

Part of Hawkins’ appeal is that she always plays by her own rules. This has led to some delightfully kooky moments over the years and Saturday’s concert was no exception. Hawkins arrived with her two kids in tow plus an assistant and walked casually through the Jammin’ Java lobby while ticket holders were in line in the lobby waiting for the house to open. Even 25 years after her debut album, her star quality is undeniable. It was such an unexpected occurrance, it didn’t quite register instantly what was happening, yet immediately one sensed things had shifted. The molecules in the room had been altered.

Playing from 6:30 p.m.-7:25 (she’d driven to the venue that day from her New York home and commented on the autumnal beauty of the drive), Hawkins’ set was deliciously unpretentious and even at times ragged. She opened with “Lose Your Way,” her controversial 1999 single that led to a showdown with her label Sony. Accompanying herself only with a banjo (the instrument that sent execs reeling as they thought it was pop radio poison), Hawkins gave a tender, focused reading of the gentle tune. Picking gently and poised on a high stool like a mermaid, not all the chords were right but it didn’t feel or sound like it mattered. It felt like something you might hear at a super late night cabaret bar in the East Village and you just felt grateful to be breathing the same air as this musical genius.

SOPHIE B. HAWKINS performs a djembe solo at last weekend’s concert. (Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

“As I Lay Me Down” was performed in similar fashion albeit on guitar. The audience took over the chorus toward the end at Hawkins’ behest while she sang backing vocals. Even amidst the clatter in the room — patrons were chowing down on nachos, chili and beer — it was a tender little moment.

Playing 100 percent solo, Hawkins was an adventuress songstress. She kept going no matter what — if her voice cracked or she played a wrong guitar chord, she seemed unfazed by it. She played tenderly at times, aggressively at others. She was down for anything, even replicating a trumpet solo skat style from “Before I Walk on Fire” while she kept the guitar accompaniment going. Like a distressed Restoration Hardware cabinet, the rough patches were part of the charm.

Moving over to a slightly out-of-tune upright piano, she performed a song she wrote from the point of view of Janis Joplin (whom she portrayed in a play a few years ago) called — one guesses — “I’ve Only Hungered for Love Before.” Dashiell, her 8-year-old son, sang the chorus with her and did remarkably well. Daughter Esther, 2, could be heard squealing a time or two in the background while her mom sang. I didn’t mind as much as I ordinarily would have — it just felt like some loosey-goosey family night.

Shockingly (although I was totally fine with it), the rest of the set save the closer was all new material, performed on piano except for a feverish drum breakdown on kiss-off “Better Off Without You.” “Free Yourself,” “I Can’t Replace You” and “Don’t Give Up on Christmas” were all tenderly performed, highly melodic ballads with logical, easy-on-the-ear chord progressions and just the right amount of rhythmic punctuations here and there. It was easy to imagine them in fully produced versions taking comfortable spots in Hawkins’ lofty and sadly underrated canon.

If there was any recurring mild complaint to the evening it was only that several of the songs, especially the older ones, seemed like they were played in keys a little too high than sounded comfortable for Hawkins’ upper register. That’s OK to a point — we don’t necessarily want our favorite singers to have an easy, no-sweat outing, but it sounded at times that perhaps Hawkins wasn’t properly warmed up. The notes and pitch were mostly there — they just sounded a bit more strained than was necessary at times.

Along the way she told stories. Some were song intros — how her roommate wanted her to stop working on “As I Lay Me Down” so she could sleep (oh the irony!); others were random — for no apparent reason other than that it had popped into her head, she sang a few lines of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and said at the moment, it’s her favorite song. She urged patrons whose view was obstructed by the piano to move. She seemed in good spirits, genuinely happy to be there, throughout the set. She looked exactly the same weight she was in the ’90s, or maybe even slightly thinner. As always, her wild trademark tresses were tossed casually and even at times wildly (as during the drum solo) about during the performance. She looked significantly younger in person than recent promo photos would suggest. With little makeup and exceedingly casual (although not shredded as in years’ past) attire, she looked like she might have just sauntered in from a farmer’s market.

Hawkins closed with her trademark hit “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Even all these years later, it still came off as deliciously sexy and slightly audacious. It sounded much like it did as a bonus acoustic re-recording on “The Crossing.” It was over way too soon. One craved a 90- or 120-minute set with time to savor more material from her masterpiece albums like “Whaler” (1994) and “Timbre” (1999). I’d revisited them both in previous days and had forgotten how great they are. Although known primarily for two major singles, Hawkins is really an album-oriented artist. These records take you somewhere. I desperately wanted to hear more of them live although I was also happy just to be in the same room with her again.

After the show and during Paul’s set, Hawkins greeted fans and signed albums. She departed with her entourage the same way she entered with several instruments in tow. They were driving back to New  York that night and she commented that she appreciated the early evening (she was done before it was even 8 p.m.). There was some brief discussion about who might carry the last large duffel bag. The assistant asked Dashiell to pick it up but Sophie said she had it. She slung it over her left arm, had Esther on her right hip and the group departed.

(some titles not certain)
6:29 p.m.
1. Lose Your Way
2. Before I Walk on Fire
3. As I Lay Me Down
4. I’ve Only Hungered for Love Before
5. Free Yourself
6. I Can’t Replace You
7. Better Off Without You
8. Don’t Give Up on Christmas
9. Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover
7:22 p.m.


Music & Concerts

Musical icons and newer stars to rock D.C. this spring

Brandi Carlile, Bad Bunny, Nicki Minaj, and more headed our way



Brandi Carlile plays the Anthem this month.

Bands and solo artists of all different genres are visiting D.C. this spring. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will team up to perform at the Wolf Trap in June, and girl in red will play at the Anthem in April. Some artists and bands aren’t paying a visit until the summer, like Janet Jackson and Usher, but there are still plenty of acts to see as the weather warms up. 


Brandi Carlile plays at the Anthem on March 21; Arlo Parks will perform at 9:30 Club on March 23; Girlschool will take the stage at Blackcat on March 28.


Nicki Minaj stops in D.C. at Capital One Arena as part of her North American tour on April 1; Bad Bunny plays at Capital One Arena on April 9 as part of his Most Wanted tour; girl in red performs at the Anthem on April 20 and 21; Brandy Clark plays at the Birchmere on April 25; Laufey comes to town to play at the Anthem on April 25 and 26. 


Belle and Sebastian play at the Anthem on May 2; Chastity Belt performs at Blackcat on May 4; Madeleine Peyroux stops at the Birchmere on May 5; The Decemberists play at the Anthem on May 10; the rock band Mannequin Pussy performs at the Atlantis on May 17 and 18; Hozier plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 17 as part of the Unreal Unearth tour. 


Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will sing soulful melodies at Wolf Trap on June 8; Joe Jackson performs at the Lincoln Theatre on June 10; the Pixies and Modest Mouse are teaming up to play at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 14; Maggie Rogers plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 16 as part of The Don’t Forget Me tour; Brittany Howard headlines the Out & About Festival at Wolf Trap on June 22; Sarah McLachlan plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 27; Alanis Morissette performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 29 and 30

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Music & Concerts

Grammys: Queer women and their sisters took down the house

Taylor Swift won Album of the Year



When the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, her answer was simple: Nine. She stated: “I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” RBG did not attend the Grammy’s last night, but her spirit sure did. Women, at long last, dominated, ruled and killed the night.

Cher, in song a decade ago, declared that “this is a woman’s world,” but there was little evidence that was true, Grammy, and entertainment awards, speaking. In 2018, the Grammys were heavily criticized for lack of female representation across all categories and organizers’ response was for women to “step up.”

Be careful what you wish for boys.

The biggest star of the 2024 Grammys was the collective power of women. They made history, they claimed legacy and they danced and lip sang to each other’s work. Standing victorious was Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA (the most nominated person of the year), Lainey Wilson, Karol G, boygenius, Kylie Minogue and Victoria Monét. Oh, yes, and powerhouse Taylor Swift, the superstar from whom Fox News cowers in fear, made history to become the first performer of any gender to win four Best Album of the Year trophies.

In the throng of these powerful women stand a number of both LGBTQ advocates and queer identifying artists. Cyrus has identified as pansexual, SZA has said lesbian rumors “ain’t wrong,” Phoebe Bridgers (winner of four trophies during the night, most of any artist) is lesbian, Monét is bi and Eilish likes women but doesn’t want to talk about it. Plus, ask any queer person about Swift or Minogue and you are likely to get a love-gush.

Women power was not just owned by the lady award winners. There were the ladies and then there were the Legends. The first Legend to appear was a surprise. Country singer Luke Combs has a cross-generational hit this year with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” When originally released, the song was embraced as a lesbian anthem. When performing “Fast Car,” surprise, there was Chapman herself, singing the duet with Combs. The rendition was stunning, sentimental and historic.

Chapman, like many of the night’s female dignitaries, has not been public with her sexuality. Author Alice Walker has spoken of the two of them being lovers, however.

The legend among legends of the night, however, was the one and only Joni Mitchell. Not gay herself, she embodies the concept of an LGBTQ icon, and was accompanied by the very out Brandi Carlile on stage. On her website, Mitchell’s statement to the LGBTQ community reads, “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”

Mitchell performed her longtime classic “Both Sides Now.” The emotion, insight and delivery from the now 80-year old artist, survivor of an aneurism, was nothing short of profound. (To fully appreciate the nuance time can bring, check out the YouTube video of a Swift lookalike Mitchell singing the same song to Mama Cass and Mary Travers in 1969.) In this latest rendition, Mitchell clearly had an impact on Meryl Streep who was sitting in the audience. Talk about the arc of female talent and power.

That arc extended from a today’s lady, Cyrus, to legend Celine Dion as well. Cyrus declared Dion as one of her icons and inspirations early in the evening. Dion appeared, graceful and looking healthy, to present the final, and historic, award of the night at the end of the show.

Legends did not even need to be living to have had an effect on the night. Tributes to Tina Turner and Sinead O’Conner by Oprah, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor and Annie Lennox respectively, proved that not even death could stop these women. As Lennox has musically and famously put it, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

Even the content of performances by today’s legends-in-the-making spoke to feminine power. Eilish was honored for, and performed “What Was I Made For?,” a haunting and searching song that speaks to the soul of womanhood and redefinition in today’s fight for gender rights and expression, while Dua Lipa laid down the gauntlet for mind blowing performance with her rendition of “Houdini” at the top of the show, Cyrus asserted the power of her anthem “Flowers” and pretty much stole the show.

Cyrus had not performed the song on television before, and only three times publicly. She declared in her intro that she was thrilled over the business numbers the song garnered, but she refused to let them define her. As she sang the hit, she scolded the audience, “you guys act like you don’t know the words to this song.” Soon the woman power of the room was singing along with her, from Swift to Oprah.

They can buy themselves flowers from now on. They don’t need anyone else. Cyrus made that point with the mic drop to cap all mic drops, “And I just won my first Grammy!” she declared as she danced off stage.

Even the squirmiest moment of the night still did not diminish the light of women power, and in fact, underscored it. During his acceptance of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z had a bone to pick with the Grammy voters. He called out the irony that his wife Beyoncé had won more Grammys than any other human, but had never won the Best Album of the Year. Yeah, what’s with that?

But then, it brought additional context ultimately to the fact that the winner of the most Grammys individually … is a woman. And to the fact that the winner of the most Best Album of the Year awards … is a woman.

Hopefully this was the night that the Grammys “got it.” Women are the epicenter of The Creative Force.

Will the other entertainment awards get it soon as well? We can hope.

Most importantly, in a political world where women’s healthcare is under siege. Will the American voters get it?

A little known band named Little Mix put it this way in their 2019 song “A Woman’s World.”

“If you can’t see that it’s gotta change
Only want the body but not the brains
If you really think that’s the way it works
You ain’t lived in a woman’s world

Just look at how far that we’ve got
And don’t think that we’ll ever stop…”

From Grammy’s mouth to the world’s ear.

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson returning to D.C, Baltimore

‘Together Again Tour’ comes to Capital One Arena, CFG Bank Arena



Janet Jackson is coming back to D.C. this summer.

Pop icon Janet Jackson announced this week an extension of her 2023 “Together Again Tour.” A new leg of the tour will bring Jackson back to the area for two shows, one at D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Friday, July 12 and another at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena on Saturday, July 13.  

Tickets are on sale now via TicketMaster. LiveNation announced the 2023 leg of the tour consisted of 36 shows, each of which was sold out. The 2024 leg has 35 stops planned so far; R&B star Nelly will open for Jackson on the new leg. 

Jackson made the tour announcement Tuesday on social media: “Hey u guys! By popular demand, we’re bringing the Together Again Tour back to North America this summer with special guest Nelly! It’ll be so much fun!”

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