Live R&B albums were a rarity in the '80s and '90s, when many urban contemporary artists were so reliant on studio technology that they were incapable of taking it to the stage. But Patti LaBelle
still had what it took to deliver a worthwhile live performance, even if many of her studio albums sounded stiff, contrived and unspontaneous. Recorded live at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom in 1998, this two-CD set isn't perfect, but it has a lot more to offer than many of the by-the-book studio recordings she'd been making. Though some of the adult contemporary-type material isn't very exciting, Patti
makes some sparks fly on inspired performances of "New Attitude," "If You Only Knew" and "You Are My Friend." The primary emphasis is on songs she'd done as a solo artist, but the Philadelphian does manage to get in a medley of "Lady Marmalade" and "What Can You Do for Me" (both '70s gems from her years leading the red-hot trio LaBelle
) and revisits her Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles
period with "The Bells" and "Somewhere over the Rainbow." One could lament the absence of "Get You Somebody New" and "Isn't It a Shame" and wish that more songs from her years with LaBelle
were included. But again, this album isn't ideal or definitive. Rather, it's a decent release that has more pluses than minuses.