Last night on Instagram, Verzuz dropped a note on something we always wanted, but, never thought was possible.
What this means to those acquainted with the Verzuz format is that Philly’s queen of soul, Patti Labelle, and the equally legendary R&B singer, Gladys Knight, will play (and surely sing, live, knowing these two) their hits – on stage – at Fishtown’s The Fillmore Philadelphia this Sunday at 8 pm.
That this is but the second time that Verzuz has gone all the way live is fascinating, considering that its first foray into the all-live setting was the duel/duet appearance by John Legend and Alicia Keys, Legend being a Philadelphia all-star from way back – a University of Penn student, a regular at the 5 Spot, the whole bit. Though less than live, one of Verzuz’s most popular pairings was the early in the game meeting between Erykah Badu and Philadelphia’s Jill Scott playing rarities and hits. Even producer and keyboardist Scott Storch who battled Mannie Fresh has Philly credentials from his longtime, early days in The Roots.
Labelle’s Philly cred barely needs an introduction or an explanation. Along with still living here in the Philly burbs, Labelle was born here (my old neighborhood, Eastwick: Southwest Philadelphia), joined the Beulah Baptist Church here, won a talent competition John Bartram High School here, formed the Ordettes here with Cindy Birdsong, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx Later the Bluebelles, later the platinum-plated Labelle), recorded “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” here, made a solo sensation of herself with the help of Gamble & Huff here, got married and children here, performed Live Aid at JFK Stadium here, continued to record here, ran and runs here epic, large culinary business – including her mega-selling Sweet Potato Patti Pies – here. Everything here. Philly.
“Philadelphia has kept me here because it’s quiet for my soul,” Ms. Patti told me last year. “it’s very grounding. It’s not New York or Los Angeles, where there’s so much going on. I have so much on my plate — God has put so much on my plate — but I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, even in my 30s or 40s.”
As for Verzuz, the whole point of the platform is old school, old school, old school. Sure, the LaBelle/Knight pairing is a little bit more “classic” than teaming Brandy to Monica, Teddy Riley to Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Snoop Dogg to DMX, Nelly to Ludacris, or its owners Swizz Beatz and Timbaland to each other.
The weekly, real-time, virtual DJ (well mostly producers, composers and vocalists) battle on Instagram Live that pits icons of R&B and hip-hop against each other in (usually) friendly musical competition was born due to the C-19 quarantine with everyone home and attentive. Here, virtual crowds of hundreds of thousands weigh in on social media, it what’s become a lockdown phenomenon since it debuted in March.
None of those previous Verzuz though will have been so soulful and church as when Gladys Knight meets Patti Labelle on her home turf. Preach.