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Patti LaBelle brings a winning attitude, Prince song to State Theatre

Who knew that soul diva Patti LaBelle was under the weather on Saturday night at the State Theatre in Minneapolis?

To be sure, she kept sipping tea and using throat spray. But she didn’t complain. She turned it out, as usual. She won over the crowd with her voice, personality and pizazz.

The 90-minute set featured a repertoire similar to LaBelle’s recent knockout shows at the State Fair (2015) and Mystic Lake Casino (2014).

She opened with her ebullient “New Attitude,” did plenty of ballads (“Somebody Loves You Baby,” “If You Asked Me To,” "On My Own"), a little gospel (“Total Praise”), a taste of Al Green (“Love and Happiness”) and Michael McDonald ("I Keep Forgettin'"), and a thrilling version of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (during which she kicked off her Louboutin high heels).  

LaBelle, 73, showed a girlish voice on “Little Girls” and a big but controlled voice on “Over the Rainbow,” which was a show stopper, as always. 

The disco classic “Lady Marmalade” featured three guys from the audience joining the diva onstage – one of whom could sing, another who loaned his blue sequined jacket to Ms Patti Patti for the entire number, and a fellow who was forgettable except for his towering size.

During the program, there were wonderful solo turns by LaBelle’s backup singers, especially gospel-inclined Debbie Henry, who has been with Ms Patti for 32 years and brings down the house every night.

One noticeable change in the set list was the inclusion of “Yo Mister,” the 1989 funk number that Prince wrote and recorded with LaBelle. She included his photo in her in memoriam segment during the gospel-infused “You Are My Friend,” which segued into “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

LaBelle gave a shout-out to “Ghostbusters” actor Ernie Hudson, who was in the audience (he lives in the Twin Cities now). And she engaged members of the crowd in conversation, especially a woman from New Orleans who stood at the foot of the stage until LaBelle reseated her in an empty seat in the third row. Ms Patti Patti playfully teased Ms New Orleans for much of the night. 

Everybody loved LaBelle’s attitude – all night long. 

Comedy gatekeeper Judd Apatow heaps praise on Duluth's Maria Bamford


LOS ANGELES -- Maria Bamford had a dynamite 2016, thanks to a critically acclaimed sitcom.

And 2017 is off to a pretty good start, too. When asked to cite his favorite comic working today, producer/director Judd Apatow didn't hesitate.

"My favorite comedian right now is Maria Bamford," said Apatow who was in Los Angeles this past weekend to promote his upcoming HBO project, "Crashing" starring Pete Holmes. "There are people you respect, and there are people that will kill in every possible situation. But for me personally, just going to a show, or people I just want to seek out just for my own enjoyment, nothing to do with work, Maria Bamford makes me laugh out loud more than anybody."

That's about as big of a compliment as you can get, considering Apatow's resume includes "Girls," "Knocked Up," "Trainwreck" and 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin." He also penned the book, "Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy," required reading for anyone with even passing interest in the art of standup.

Bamford's Netflix series, "Lady Dynamite," which was partially shot in Minnesota, has been renewed for a second season. The first season had 94 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which is outstanding. But I'm guessing Bamford values the praise from Apatow even more.

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