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Music & Concerts

New Supremes deluxe reissue features classic alternate takes, live ’67 show

Founding member Florence Ballard heard prominently on ‘Supremes Sing HDH’



The Supremes, gay news, Washington Blade

The Supremes (Photo courtesy Motown/Universal)

It’s been a particularly rich several years for Supremes fans as Universal (previously under the now-defunct Hip-O-Select imprint) continues its series of classic album “expanded editions” from Motown’s leading ladies.

The latest — perhaps the series’ best, although that’s a tough call — is the deluxe reissue of “The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland: Expanded Edition,”  a two-CD digipak that features the original album in both stereo and mono mixes, 12 alternate takes/extended mixes and a jaw-droppingly pristine recording of the group’s 1967 engagement at the famous Copacabana nightclub in New York where just a few years earlier, they’d recorded their legendary “At the Copa” album (itself reissued in deluxe format in 2012).

The album — named for Motown’s main songwriting team — features the Supremes’ no. 1 hits “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Love is Here and Now You’re Gone” as well as a cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ hit “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave” (interesting, though the girls don’t capture the Vandellas’ fire; it illustrates beautifully how different the two groups were) and “Going Down for the Third Time,” one of the Supremes’ best deep album cuts (it was later the B-side to “Reflections” and sounds like it could have been a smash itself).

The 1967 Copa recordings are notable on several counts. One, they’re the final group appearances of founding member Florence Ballard who was officially ousted from the group soon thereafter and replaced by Cindy Birdsong. Two, while bootlegs have circulated of these shows among fans in recent years, they’ve either been very hard to come by and/or available only with distorted audio. Everything’s cleaned up just so on the new album and we get the pleasure of hearing Ballard and fellow Supreme Mary Wilson’s backing vocals surprisingly high in the mix (we hear them much more prominently than we do on the accompanying studio recordings although, even there, they’re prominent).

The Supremes in their last few years with Diana Ross (she left in 1970) were a mixed bag. There were still hits (although not nearly as many) in the post-Ballard era (“Love Child,” their joint albums with the Temptations), but it was never quite the same. Birdsong did an admirable job with big heels to fill (her singing was lovely) but she could never hope to match Ballard’s sassy persona and brassy vocals. There’s a reason characters inspired by Ballard — played by Jennifer Holliday and and Jennifer Hudson in the stage and screen versions of “Dreamgirls” — are the ones everybody remembers.

The second disc here, with the Copa material, gives us the chance to hear Ballard on classic Supremes live material, especially a mash-up of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Second Hand Rose” and “Mame” we’d previously only known from the group’s 1968 “Live at London’s Talk of the Town” album with Birdsong (itself, admittedly, a gem).

Culled from the best takes from two shows, we also get an alternate version of “Put On a Happy Face” (a different take than the one on the Supremes 2000 box set),” an uber-rare live version of “My Favorite Things” (recorded on the Supremes’ Christmas album) and a blistering live version of their 1967 No. 1 hit “The Happening.”

Thanks to these wonderful reissues, we now have a much better picture of the Supremes’ true stage act throughout the ‘60s. For decades, all we had were the original “At the Copa” and “Talk of the Town” albums (both heavily edited), but it’s now possible to truly feel what the Supremes classic lineup was like live between the “Copa” reissue album, this 1967 Copa show on the new release and the bonus disc of the 2012 equally grand re-release of the “I Hear a Symphony” album which features a previously unreleased (and complete!) live performance of the Supremes at the Roostertail in Detroit.

It’s all dated in the most deliciously endearing way, a breath of fresh air in our exceedingly jaded and ironic era. The cheesy, Vegas-y string section, the reprises that are nothing more than a retread of the last several bars of music, the canned stage patter — it just all works the same way you never get tired of “Carol Burnett Show” reruns or other classic relics of the era. It’s just a bit raw too — Ross’s lead vocals sound a tad weathered by constant touring. There’s a gritty topcoat on the otherwise wonderfully syrupy vocals we hear her offer on the studio material here.

Even though these final moments with Ballard are bittersweet to hear, I’m still champing at the bit for Universal to continue this series into the Birdsong years. It will be amazing — one can only hope — to hear the full “Talk of the Town” live recordings as well as a proper reissue of the group’s “Farewell” 1970 album. Although most notable as the group’s final shows with Ross, it’s of greater historical note to me because it’s all we really know of the Supremes’ 1969 live act.

Wilson told the Blade in a 2017 interview the “Farewell” material was pretty much the group’s 1969 live show, i.e. it was not greatly altered for the Frontier engagement (which became the “Farewell” album), still I yearn to hear what the group sounded like on a “normal” night that final year together. They toured relentlessly that year — let’s hope series producers Andrew Skurow and George Solomon are eventually able to unearth some heretofore unknown 1969 live material or at least some alternate Frontier-recorded Supremes performances.

Also, do yourself a big favor and don’t get this release on a digital or streaming medium. The foldout digipak is gorgeous and comes with two booklets, both chocked with vintage photos. One features an amazing interview with Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier (of the title); the other is a reproduction of the Supremes’ 1967 tour program.


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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