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The O’Jays, Patti LaBelle highlight Summer Music Festival


With a name as generic as the Summer Music Festival, you probably wouldn’t realize the level of stardom participating: Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Patti LaBelle, The O’Jays, Babyface and Tank.

The package tour visited a ¾-full Chastain Park Amphitheatre Thursday night – a happy crowd ready to dance and sing along to hours of classics while taking breaks to fan themselves and share mini-fans (you smart, smart folks).

After opening sets from Babyface and Tank, The O’Jays – originals Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and member since the mid-‘90s Eric Grant – trotted onstage in matching white satin suits for “Love Train.”

The trio frequently introduced songs by way of, “See if you remember this one,” and the answer, based on audience participation, was always a chorus of knowing yesses.

During their quick, 30-minute set, the O’Jays, backed by a 12-member band, including a four-piece horn section that added warm tones to the music, engaged in dance steps – some synchronized, some random, but always entertaining.

Levert’s deep voice carried well on “Cry Together,” as he stalked the stage and addressed several women in the front rows with eye contact, and the threesome traded strong harmonies on “Stairway to Heaven.”

It’s been a tough decade for the 70-year-old Levert, who lost both of singer sons, Gerald and Sean, in recent years. But he’s still a consummate showman.

As Williams sang lead, Levert and Grant glided through the harmonies of the jaunty “Use Ta Be My Girl,” the song’s silken bass line an undiminished treat. And speaking of bass lines, does it get any funkier than the opening of “For the Love of Money”? Grant, in particular, seemed to enjoy dancing through that one, as Levert and Williams hammed it up beside him.

Keeping a show with this many acts moving smoothly almost never happens. But the roadies on this team hustled to change sets within 15 minutes, wheeling out a white baby grand piano with a trio of colorful stilettos sitting on top for Patti LaBelle’s set.

Patti LaBelle’s opening song at Chastain Park Amphitheatre on Thursday.

Opening with “Joy to Have You Love,” the soul diva, in flowing layers that looked exceptionally hot (as in temperature), her hair in a sleek bob, greeted the crowd with a smile before rolling through her own 35-minute show.

LaBelle is a first-class belter, but she also knows something that those kids on every singing talent show competition don’t – how to control her voice.

On both “New Day” and, later in her set, a gorgeous version of “Over the Rainbow” backed by the excellent Voice of Atlanta Choir, LaBelle steered the songs through a roller coaster of ranges.

Though she seemed a bit more subdued than performances past, LaBelle, 68, still injected plenty of passion into “If Only You Knew” and brought a jazzy lilt to “On My Own.”

Her 14-piece band, including five horn players, was fronted by pianist John Stanley, who isn’t the most inconspicuous band leader. But, perhaps LaBelle likes him to be aggressive and visible in his direction. Surely no one crosses Patti.

LaBelle received a strong assist from her backup singers during “Lady Marmalade” and later tapped into emotions with “You Are My Friend,” which swelled with inspiration. As she sang, with the choir again backing her, photos of LaBelle with celebrity friends (Liza Minnelli, Whoopi Goldberg, Denzel Washington) and non-famous friends flashed on the video screen behind her.

Then, with a kiss to the crowd, she was gone, the crowd sufficiently animated as they awaited the musical party with Maze.

(Check out our gallery for photos of last night’s show.)

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene


17 comments Add your comment


July 20th, 2012
6:52 am

Wow, Eddie is 70? He looks good, and still working hard. Parents should never bury their kids, so I know his heart is broken. God Bless you Mr Levert.

Da Commish

July 20th, 2012
8:37 am

You realize the concert was billed as Maze feat Frankie Beverly……….also starring LaBelle, O’Jays, Babyface and Tank……but they barely get mentioned?

Lady T

July 20th, 2012
9:45 am

Why dis Maze? They gave the BEST performance and kept me on my feet the entire time . . .


July 20th, 2012
9:49 am

The writer totally missed the mark on this one. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly was the headliner and performed for approximately one hour and 20 minutes. The remaining acts performed for approximately 30 minutes each including Patti LaBelle. Great concert and 65 year old Frankie Beverly was incredible. Patti LaBelle did a great job but let’s give credit where credit is due. This was Frankie’s concert.

Melissa Ruggieri

July 20th, 2012
10:16 am

Lady T – I didn’t “dis” Maze or Frankie Beverly – I just did not review his portion of the concert. My editor and I decided that since Frankie and Maze are staples at Chastain every summer — and we cover them every year — that for this show we would focus on some of the other acts on the bill.

Don P.

July 20th, 2012
10:27 am

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly was the headliner, not Patti La’Belle and for you not to review his performance is a shame. To me you didn’t meet your obligation to review the whole Summer Music Festival. It is a dis to Frankie Beverly and Maze. Just reading the headline I assumed Maze didn’t show up for some reason. please do a better job at reporting and staying for the entritr concert.


July 20th, 2012
10:33 am

There were many “newbies” at the concert that may have appreciated a “fairly” allocated review of the concert. Regardless of how many times Frankie and Maze performed at Chastain, they’re entitled to a review, or least, a little more than a sentence at the end. This review gave a false impression of Patti Labelle as the “headliner”. I specifically read the review to read what others thought and was disappointed that Patti was the main focus. I love Patti and agreed with what was said in regarsd to her performance, however, I was hoping to read reviews on Frankie. He did not perform well on the BET awards and there were also concerns and rumors about his health. It would have been nice for others who were not able to attend to hear otherwise.


July 20th, 2012
12:06 pm

I get it that Beverly and Maze may come to Atlanta a lot but that’s still weird that the paper wouldn’t review the headlining act.

So every time Springsteen, B-52’s, the Stones or Elton John performs, you’ll just refer to an earlier review?

Every performance is different, even with the same set list so come on, don’t be journalistically lazy AJC but show off that you’re a connoisseur of their music or introduce the phenom of a stadium of people doing the electric slide to newbies.


July 20th, 2012
12:54 pm

Melissa, I’m sorry, to totally not review or report on Frankie Beverly and Maze’s performance shows your lack of experience as a reporter! Any experienced reporter would have known that you always focus your attention on the Headliner! Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes has been the LEAD on every major entertainment show for the last week because the producers and reporters are experts at what they do!


July 20th, 2012
2:30 pm

Wait, you didn’t even include a photo of the headliner in the gallery?

If it’s the bride’s second wedding, does that mean that you only take photos of the bridesmaids and not the bride?


July 20th, 2012
3:35 pm

It is obvious that YOU nor Your EDITOR understand the MAZe phnomenon. 95% of the people at that concert were there to see MAZE Don’t you get it? MAZE has a cult following almost like the Beatles. Imagine if the Beatles came to Chastain every year but wasn’t mentioned or pictured in the review. Just because they come every year. You just don’t get it. This was MAZE. You need to study up on this group and their follower and loyal fans. AJC missed the boat on this one and you owe us an

Melissa Ruggieri

July 20th, 2012
5:29 pm

Janet – Well, then my apologies, but we don’t always have the resources to cover every aspect of every show. I could give you a list of artists that we didn’t cover this year because they perform here regularly — Earth, Wind & Fire, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, Def Leppard, Styx, etc. All have fervent fan bases similar to Mr. Beverly and Maze — and some of them played bigger venues than Chastain — but in this instance we chose to focus on the acts that aren’t here as frequently.
I was, however, under the impression that we were photographing Maze, so I’m honestly not sure what happened there (one of my colleagues handles our photo assignments).
And Linda, for the record, I’ve been covering concerts for 20 years. In fact, Maze with Toni Braxton was my first-ever reviewing experience in the early ’90s and I’ve seen Maze numerous times since. Mr. Beverly and the band always put on a great show and I’m glad to hear that last night was no exception.


July 20th, 2012
8:10 pm

Melissa, thanks for the not very sincere apology. However, if you would have gone to one of the above mention concerts you mentioned where those group were performing, I’m sure you would have at least mentioned them becuase you understand their impact.. I just don’t think that you were aware of MAZE’s cult following,regardless of the fact that they were one of the first groups you covered. You, I think, were very much educated today. Thanks for going back and at least including some photos. Just don’t let this happen next year when the come back AGAIN. (LOL)


July 20th, 2012
8:11 pm

Melissa, I understand that the paper can’t cover every event, especially when they’re on the same night or when an act run over the alloted time, but your argument is a little hollow when the ajc actually had personnel at the Summer Music Festival.

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barbara addison

July 26th, 2012
4:43 pm

i went ot the show last night in nyc. it was amazing.frankie beverly and maze turned it out…i was puzzeled by ms. patti. i have seen her numerous times and something did not seem right to me. she was just singing words. she usually turns it out. maybe it was me but ,something was missing. otherwise, i had a great time