Patti LaBelle and Jerry Butler were each 19 when they had their first hit record, LaBelle in 1963 and Butler in 1958. Since then, their voices have deepened but haven't faded.They began six nights of music at the Warner Theater last night with volcanic wailing from LaBelle and silky crooning from Butler.
LaBelle was so revved up she had to hold on to her strapless green gown to keep from jumping right out of it. Soft notes simmered in her mouth till they boiled up through several octaves into a feverish falsetto shout. She swooned through ballads like "Love Has Finally Come," and pushed fast numbers like "Give It Up" into big crescendo climaxes.
Jerry Butler may have less of a voice, but he has just as much style. Decked out in white -- suit, shirt and shoes -- the "Ice Man" sang, moved and talked with satin smoothness. On the ballad, "That's What Love Will Do," his hands slowly rose and fell in the air as if they were stretching out the gracefully sustained notes.
On record LaBelle and Butler often suffer from uneven material. But they have the voices and charisma to give the best live stage shows around. As soul survivors, they are rivaled only by Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson and James Brown.