ENTERTAINMENT – Wolf Trap Moments: Anita Baker, even better with time


August 28, 2010
Wendy Thompson
In Case You Missed It

Anita Baker made her annual return to the Washington, DC metro area with her stop at Wolf Trap on Thursday night, and she did not disappoint.  With that conclusion, it must be noted that with all of the great music throughout the night, there was a little too much small talk.  The show opened with Vance Gilbert, the guest performer who would set the stage for a night of small talk.  His folksy rendition of old classics was pleasing, especially during an evening where a cool breeze chased the night.  At times, his music was even moving.  Nonetheless, as he transitioned from one song to the next, headded long diatribes and less than humorous jokes to his act.  In the end, the music won over the crowd as they eagerly awaited Baker, who by her own admission was running a little late.

With a taste of irony, as I was barreling down the highway – running traditionally late – there sat Baker’s limousine right beside me, stuck in after-rush-hour traffic on 495.  As most everyday people do, I wondered who sat behind the tinted windows and noticed the car tag.  Upon arriving to Wolf Trap, that same limo pulled up beside me and around to the back where I picked up my press tickets.  It was Baker and her entourage.  The coincidences did not end there.  As I received my tickets, I was escorted to my seat down front in the audience.  One of the ushers noticed my press and photo pass and asked if I wanted to sit out in the aisle so that I wouldn’t disturb the audience when getting up to take photos.  I agreed and she got me a chair.  She seated me next to a couple — who was expecting a baby – and also sitting in the aisle.

As the concert began, Baker shot out on the stage displaying the energy of a 20 year old.  Dressed in black and dancing in heels that lasted the entire show, the “Songstress” belted out songs that remind us of what real music once sounded like.  Before singing her signature song “Sweet Love”, she spoke of the distance many in the audience had traveled.  One couple, she said, had traveled from as far as Dubai and had recently become friends of hers.  Baker quickly pointed in my direction and the spotlight was on me and the couple beside me.  She continued describing how the two had met and fell in love listening to her music.  Now the couple was married, expecting their first child and beaming from the aisle as Baker spoke to them.  She then brought down the house with her soulful rendition of “Sweet Love”, as the couple swayed in the audience.

In the end, it was the old faithfuls that lifted the crowds out of their seats.  A special appearance by Gerald Albright and his saxophone on “You Bring Me Joy” was the hit of the night.  For a crowd-pleasing finale during an encore – after several yells and requests from the audience – Baker relented and gave a jazzed-up performance of “Fairy Tales”, which satisfied the fans who came to reminisce.  It can be argued that with age, Baker’s voice has gotten even stronger – if that’s possible.  Clear, pure, flawless and sublime, hearing her voice live is like tasting a fine wine that has been stored away for years.  You wonder why something this good, this stupendous only comes out once a year.  And Baker was that good.


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