Connect with us

Music & Concerts

Michael W. Smith, Sandi Patty wow with Kennedy Center patriotic shows

CCM legends join massive choirs, orchestras for 4th of July-themed extravaganzas

Published

on

SANDI PATTY on stage at the Kennedy Center on July 3, 2019.
(Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

Last week at the Kennedy Center provided a rare one-two punch for lovers of ’80s/’90s CCM (contemporary Christian music) — Michael W. Smith played the Concert Hall July 1 with the True North Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of David Hamilton; Sandi Patty played the same room two nights later — an unrelated coincidence — with the Bellevue Baptist Church Choir & Orchestra, a Memphis-area-based church outfit.

Smith’s concert was part of a larger event that found hundreds of his fans descending upon the capitol to see sights, though standalone tickets were available for the concert. Smith tours constantly, but it’s a fairly rare opportunity to see him with such lavish accompaniment.

Patty has retired from major touring but, thankfully, still makes occasional appearances. Historically the best chance you had to see either one with full orchestra was at a Christmas concert, so both concerts were refreshing changes of pace.

Smith truly headlined at his concert singing or playing on (several numbers were instrumentals from his “Freedom” and “Glory” albums) all but the opening number, a choral arrangement of his song “Shine On Us” recorded by Phillips, Craig and Dean on the classic ’95 multi-artist album “My Utmost For His Highest.” There were 62 in the orchestra/band and about 196 in the choir.

The Patty concert was more half and half, with Patty and four family members (husband Don Peslis, stepdaughter Aly Peslis, daughter-in-law Katie Peslis and son Jon Helvering) singing on 10 of 20 selections, the rest handled by the 130-voice choir and 34-piece orchestra.

Standouts included the Patty classic “Love in Any Language,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (from “Carousel”), “God Bless America” and Patty’s trademark rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which she debuted to acclaim at the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. She doesn’t go up quite as high on the big final note as she did 30 years ago, but her voice still sounds mighty and robust. On her 2017 farewell tour, it was played on a video montage, so it was great to hear it live.

Especially nice to hear were renditions of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” which Patty has never recorded. YouTube clips have surfaced the last couple years from patriotic summer mini-tours Patty and her family have given (never in our region) but there’s no comparison to hearing them live. Both were stately and regal.

The Bellevue group was better than I expected in a rousing, shimmying set (many arrangements were by accompanist/arranger Josh Stewart who was at the piano most of the evening) that included bombastic medleys, gospel standards and hymns. All the soloists were stellar but standouts were Cooper Patrick who delivered a rollicking “Walking in Memphis” with true star power and Audrey Lawrence on gospel barnburner “Heaven Bound.”

Soprano Lisa Parker initially seemed to have the deck stacked against her tackling “The Lord’s Prayer” just moments after the great Patty had left the stage, but she acquitted herself nicely with an understated performance that felt both delicate and sturdy.

Interestingly, Patty seemed most energized on two of the quieter numbers — “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” which she sang with just piano accompaniment from her long-time pianist Jay Rouse, and during the encore, a richly harmonized rendition of “It Is Well With My Soul” she sang sans mics with her family. They’ve done numbers like this at other concerts; it always whets my appetite for a whole evening of this sort of thing. They truly give Chanticleer and Pentatonix a run for their money with their a cappella harmony work.

Patty seemed in good spirits greeting and offering sign language to long-time fans such as Lee Tucker in the first couple rows. Minor quibble: um, hello — blue gown change for act II? We know you have ’em, girl.

Smith’s concert ran the gamut from glistening instrumentals (“Glory Overture”), a roiling Christmas number “Gloria” that brought to mind the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, choral worship thunder on “Total Praise” and even a swampy spiritual “Down to the River to Pray” from one of Smith’s Cracker Barrel hymns projects.

MICHAEL W. SMITH (at piano) at the KennedyCenter on July 1, 2019.
(Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

Things meandered a bit in the second half during a lengthy worship set in which the orchestra and choir sat out and Smith and his usual band took the reins. None of it was bad — these passages are a staple of Smith’s usual concerts — but at the Kennedy Center, it felt like filler, as if there weren’t quite enough charts done for a full evening of symphonic work so they padded it with easy-to-deliver classic Smitty worship fare.

The crowd enjoyed it just fine but the orchestra players looked bored out of their minds (perhaps they were merely deferring, who knows). Two Mikes who showed up — Pence and Pompeo (along with Karen Pence, the second lady) — were rapt if not especially demonstrative. Smitty’s crowd — almost all white Bible Belt evangelicals — went wild when they were introduced. I somehow managed not to vomit. It’s not so much that I mind political dissent — that’s fine and healthy — but it was a stark, right-there-in-front-of-you reminder of the white evangelical infatuation with this administration. How anyone takes it seriously is beyond me.

Another downside to Smitty’s set was that it was almost identical to a Kennedy Center concert he gave with the same choir and orchestra in Jan., 2014 with 14 songs (pretty much everything but the worship set) carried over verbatim. It was all stellar, but I’d hoped in five years time, Smith could have managed at least a new orchestration or two of selections from his mammoth catalogue. He constantly talks about how many songs he has to choose from in his vast discography and how there’s no way to get to everything. Well, that’s all fine and good but don’t show up five years later with the same set (pretty much) and expect us to buy that hollow line again (in fairness, he has gotten better at digging deep in his “regular” concerts the last couple years).

His canned bromides, while good natured, are also pretty stale — he says “I will never forget this night” at every concert, he’s playing “Gloria” (a Christmas song) because “it’s my show” and he never knew he’d be playing trademark hit “Friends” “the rest of my life.” There’s just a hint of a chip on his shoulder while Patty exudes graciousness.

And while lustrous, none of it was terribly interesting. Like so much of the fare we hear when the NSO Pops appears with pop acts like Diana Ross or Melissa Etheridge, the strings just sort of saw away, the brass adds a little punch here and there and that’s about it. I was hoping, for instance, when we got to the big electric guitar solo on Smitty classic “Place in This World,” the strings would have gone crazy with some totally new contrapuntal interlude but nah — in came the anachronistic electric guitar shooting out the exact same thing that’s on the album version.

Huge missed opportunity. With such vast arsenals of instrumentation at one’s disposal, why are the arrangements always so blah, so predictable? Smith’s long-time touring comrade Jim Daneker is a musical genius — I salivate imagining what cool stuff he could come up with given the time. And not that there was anything too wildly wonderful going on at the Patty show either but her arrangements (both vintage and those from Bellevue) just sounded less forced, more idiomatically orchestral.

Neither artist managed to quite fill the nearly 2,442-seat Concert Hall, but Smith, on a Monday night no less, came closer (and with vastly higher ticket prices). Patty’s concert didn’t appear to be well publicized; it’s a shame, too — it was a rare chance for Washingtonians to hear the gospel music legend who last played here at Sligo Church in November, 2016.

Nothing LGBT about either concert (although Patty has a legion of gay fans); both artists are straight. Just a fun couple nights out worth reporting on.

Michael W. Smith
True North Orchestra & Chorus
David Hamilton, conductor
Kennedy Center
7-1-19

STARTS: 7:05 p.m.

Shine On Us (choir)

Glory Overture (inst./orch+MWS)

Great is the Lord (MWS/choir/orch)

Ancient Words/Thy Word (MWS/choir/orch)

Above All (MWS/band)

Whitaker’s Wonder (inst./orch+MWS)

The Giving (inst./orch+MWS)

Heroes (inst./orch+MWS)

There She Stands (MWS/choir/orch)

 America the Beautiful (MWS/band)

 Place in This World (MWS/orch)

 Gloria (MWS/choir/orch)

INTERMISSION (20 minutes)

RESUMES: 8:29

13. Freedom (inst./orch+MWS)

14. Down to the River to Pray (MWS/choir/orch)

15. Total Praise (MWS/choir/band)

16. Do it Again (MWS/band)

17. Surrounded (MWS/band)

18. Healing Rain (MWS/band)

19. Great Are You Lord (MWS/band) 

20. Agnus Dei (MWS/choir/orch)

ENCORE: 

21. Friends (MWS/choir/orch)

Total Praise reprise

ENDS: 9:15

Sandi Patty & Family
Bellevue Baptist Church
Choir & Orchestra
Kennedy Center
7-3-19

STARTS: 8:03 p.m.

 A Mighty Fortress (choir/orch)

Patriot’s Song Medley (choir/orch)

Tennessee Medley (choir/orch)

INTRO OF SANDI — 8:23

4. Battle Hymn of the Republic (Sandi/fam/choir/orch)

5. Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor (Sandi/fam/choir/orch)

6. What a Wonderful World (Sandi/piano)

7. The Star-Spangled Banner (Sandi/choir/orch)

SANDI EXITS — 8:47

8. Salute to the Armed Forces (choir/orch)

9. Taps/The Lord’s Prayer (choir/orch)

10. Be Thou My Vision (choir/orch)

11. Say Amen (choir/orch)

12. Heaven Bound (choir/orch)

13. That’s Why God (choir/orch)

14. Christ is Born (choir/orch)

SANDI RETURNS 9:29

15. Anthem of Praise (Sandi/fam/choir/orch)

16. Love in Any Language (Sandi/fam/choir/orch)

17. His Eye is On the Sparrow (Sandi/piano)

18. You’ll Never Walk Alone (Sandi/fam/choir/orch)

19. God Bless America (Sandi/fam/choir/orch)

20. It is Well With My Soul (Sand/fam) 

ENDS: 10:01

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Music & Concerts

New dance single pays tribute to Town Danceboutique

Local musicians pen ‘Town’ in honor of shuttered club

Published

on

Bryce Bowyn (Photo by Clarissa Villondo)

The closing of the LGBTQ nightclub Town Danceboutique in the summer of 2017 was heartbreaking to local musician Bryce Bowyn. He and his Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter friend Lexie Martin decided to honor its legacy in their new single, “Town.”

For Bowyn, who moved to the District about a decade ago to attend school at American University, the memories he has from Town Danceboutique are endless. And when it closed, it was a massive loss to Bowyn and many others. 

“It was such a cool space,” Bowyn said. “It was just disappointing to see a place that brought so many people together become part of the landscape again.” The building Town Danceboutique used to be housed in is now home to upscale apartments and a CVS. 

Town Danceboutique was a formative place for Bowyn and Martin, and it was Bowyn’s first experience in an open and accepting LGBTQ environment. His favorite memories at the club were always on Halloween, he said. Patrons, including Bowyn, would go all out with their costumes to look their very best. 

Bowyn and Martin met while they were both in the musical theater program at American University. Despite their years-long friendship, “Town” is the first song they have written together. They sat down over FaceTime and got to work. It was Martin’s idea to pay homage to Town Danceboutique, and the song follows the story of pre-gaming, going out, and hitting the dance floor. 

But the single also serves as a hype song for going out in any city, at any place. 

“It was important to me for the song to remain relatable and accessible,” Bowyn said. “So the whole foundation of the chorus, ‘Let’s go to town,’ can either mean Town Danceboutique, or painting the town red and having the night of your life.”

Bowyn started writing and producing his own music in 2018. He released an EP titled “A Rosy Retrospect” in 2022, and most recently released a single “A Bridge Burned Down” in June. His music is inspired by late 2000s pop and ‘80s synthpop, influenced by stars like Madonna and Charli XCX. Lexie Martin released her self-titled EP in 2019 and most recently came out with her single “SUPERPOWER” in 2021. 

Bowyn has been a lifelong pop music enthusiast. He distinctly remembers watching Britney Spears perform “Oops!…I Did It Again” at the MTV Video Music Awards when he was a kid and thinking “That was what I wanted and what I was set to do in life.”

“My heart was always with pop music,” Bowyn said. 

“Town” is available now for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud.

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

From Monáe to Madonna, fall will rock in D.C.

Local venues hosting array of queer artists in coming months

Published

on

Madonna’s delayed tour is slated to hit D.C. Dec. 18 and 19. (Screen capture via YouTube)

The D.C. area has many LGBTQ musical acts to look forward to this fall. Starting with pansexual and nonbinary actor and R&B singer Janelle Monáe, performing at the Anthem on Sept. 24-25 with ticket prices ranging from $135 to $301 on StubHub.

Janelle Monáe comes to the Anthem later this month. (Screen capture via YouTube)

Singer Hozier’s “Unreal Unearth Tour” is coming to the Anthem on Sept. 26-27. Tickets are available on StubHub starting at $324.

On Sept. 28 the CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore will see lesbian pop artist SZA’s “SOS Tour” with tickets starting at $165 on Ticketmaster. 

Queer indie pop singer Ashnikko is coming to the Anthem on Sept. 29 to perform their “Weedkiller Tour.” Tickets available on StubHub range from $49 to $279.

Coming to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., is the All Things Go Festival. Performing are lesbian singers Tegan and Sara, alt-pop singer Lana Del Rey, pop singer Carly Rae Jepson, and more. The festival will take place Sept. 30-Oct. 1 with two day passes starting at $397 on SeatGeek.  

Rock band Queen will perform “The Rhapsody Tour” at the CFG Bank Arena along with Adam Lambert on Oct. 4-5. Tickets are starting at $181 on Ticketmaster. 

Pop star and trans woman Kim Petras’ “Feed the Beast World Tour” will reach the Anthem on Oct 12. Tickets range from $72 to $817 on StubHub. 

Kim Petras brings the ‘Feed the Beast World Tour’ to the Anthem in October. (Photo by Thom Kerr)

Queer pop singer Kesha is coming to the Anthem on Oct. 29 to support her new album, “Gag Order.” Tickets go from $86 to $261 on Event Ticket Center. 

Queer pop rapper Shygirl is co-headlining with bisexual singer Tinashe for the “Nymph” tour at the Anthem on Nov. 5. Tickets range from $45 to $145 on Ticketmaster.

Indie band Men I Trust is performing at Echostage on Nov. 15. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster for $30. 

Nonbinary rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s “PINK TAPE TOUR” will be at the Anthem on Nov. 21. Tickets start at $90 on StubHub. 

Doja Cat’s “The Scarlett Tour” will reach Capital One Arena on Nov. 27. Tickets start at $100 on Ticketmaster. 

Madonna will bring her highly anticipated and delayed “The Celebration Tour” to the Capital One Arena Dec. 18 and 19. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster starting at $110.

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Tom Goss to perform at Rehoboth Beach Bear Weekend

Out singer entertains at the Sands Hotel

Published

on

Tom Goss (Photo by Dusti Cunningham)

Out singer Tom Goss will perform at the Rehoboth Beach Bear Weekend on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Sands Hotel. 

He will sing his memorable songs like “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Bears,” as well as tracks from his new album, “Remember What It Feels Like,” where he sings about being a 42-year-old gay man still reeling from his husband’s infidelity who was recently conned by a lover with a secret life now serving time in prison. 

Tickets to Rehoboth Beach Bear Weekend start at $20 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular