This review of Peace, Love & Yolanda at The Metropolitan Room was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Peace, Love & Yolanda
A Celebration Of The Rev. Yolanda Songbook
Musical Director: Kenneth Gartman
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Peace, Love & Yolanda was a two-hour celebration of the life and songbook of Rev. Yolanda, a two-time MAC Award Winning, Blues Hall of Fame, Outmusician of the Year 2003, and GLBT Hall of Fame Honoree who just turned 60 and is celebrating 25 years of songwriting, performing and ministry. Rev. Yolanda is a self-described trans/femme gender queer performance artist, and interfaith minister. Born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama ("The hit record capital of the world"), Tony Mapes sang gospel music and tried to get a record deal. When that fell through, he moved to the East Village, became a political activist, and met the Radical Faeries in 1992. He moved to a Faerie commune in Vermont (where the bond between the residents co-created HOME in mutual love and respect honoring the divine in each of us) and began his life as Yolanda, eventually ending up in Burlington, where her Radical Faerie, Transgender Warrior, GLBT social activist songwriting took off with her dream band, Yolanda & The Plastic Family. In 1999, Yolanda was invited to play on Queer Music Night at CBGBs. After two years of performing, she decided to move back to New York City, eventually becoming the first "hostess" at Freddy Freeman's newly formed Bear Music night, called Bearapalooza. In her continuing journey through life, she eventually found the love of her life, got married, and attended One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in 2009. By 2011, she was Rev. Yolanda and in 2012, she began her music ministry with her MAC Award-winning show, Rev. Yolanda's Old Time Gospel Hour. Through her ministry, she works to "co-create circles of love" and helps people recognize "the light of the divine" in each of us.
There were many special guests who made arrangements to attend this show. In fact, I felt as if I were sitting through an episode of This Is Your Life, an American Reality documentary series first broadcast on NBC Radio from 1948 to 1952 and then on NBC Television from 1952 to 1961 (It was originally hosted by its creator and producer Ralph Edwards and was revived in later decades). During Peace, Love & Yolanda!, we are introduced to a woman who went to High School with "Tony Mapes" and drove up from Alabama to help him celebrate his life and career. Before "Rev. Yolanda", Musical Director Kenneth Gartman knew her as "Roger." Similarly, many other individuals from all aspects of Rev. Yolanda's life were present in the room. Too often, people's lives are only truly celebrated after they die. It was very nice to see a fitting tribute to a respected and loved individual who is still alive and in the prime of their artistic productivity. To use Rev. Yolanda's words, "HIV positive & 60 years old. How about that!" There is an old saying you can live as many lives as you wish - and Rev. Yolanda is definitely confirming that statement is true. Who knows what the next chapter of her life will bring? I wouldn't be surprised if one day she decides to run for Governor of the State of New York!
In this show, we saw the celebration of her songbook, from the beginning of her career up to now. Rev. Yolanda sang "Alien Love Child" (her anthem to The Radical Faeries), "Muscle Shoals" (a tribute to her home town - "The South Will Rise Again!"), "Love Divine", "Step Back", "Primal Sensation" (with Jess Jurkovic as guest pianist), and her most popular song, "We Are Angels" (OutVoice's Top 10 Song Chart of 2015). The show also featured guest stars from the world of theater, cabaret, and the queer music scene who have been on the journey with Yolanda and hold a special place in her heart. Those guests included Freddy Freeman (founder of Bearapalooza), who sang "A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry"; Raissa Katona Bennett ("Christine" in Phantom Of The Opera), who sang "Control Queen" (Funny Lyrics: "Everyone in the world has their own place and that's where they should stay!" - very Trumpian - and"If people in my life would just do what I say, they'd be O.K."); Tym Moss (host of Artists Exposed With Tym Moss), who sang "Eat Me" (Lyric: "Don't tell me what to do! What's the matter with you!"); Tanya Moberly (2016 MAC Award Best Female Vocalist) singing "Nice Girl"; Candy Samples (Drag Superstar) performing "The Sickness Of Beauty"; Kenneth Gartman (Musical Director, pianist, singer, MAC Award Nominee) singing "The Boy Who Sings The Blues"); Doreen Younglove, who sang "Freedom"; Jim Keyes (guitarist, singer, songwriter), who sang "Home"; and Rev. Shawn Moninger, who performed the Love & Light Medley. Besides the talented Jim Keyes, the band (this night called The Yolandaleers) featured the very talented Matt Vander Ende on drums, Dennis Michael Keefe on bass, and Emily Mikesell (Radio Gals original cast) on background vocals and fiddle.
Peace, Love & Yolanda was a one-off special. If you missed it, you are just going to have to live with that for the rest of your life and make every effort to attend Rev. Yolanda's 61st Birthday Bash, if there is one. This show was absolutely wonderful, filled with soaring melodies and joy filled lyrics. Her message is to love yourself and to be all you can be! We can then take the light that shines in each of us out into the world to share that love. Did I mention there were images from Rev. Yolanda's life projected on the wall during the show, including one that was so graphic, it had to be censored so the audience members wouldn't go blind or have nightmares. There were many other surprises, in fact, far too many to mention in this short review of an afternoon show, which flew by with no intermission.
Rev. Yolanda views herself as a combination of Louise Hay and John Waters. That may well very be, but in my opinion, Rev. Yolanda is her own unique special creation unlike anyone else in the world. She is a loving and caring individual who makes the world a better place simply because she is in it. I encourage you to buy her CDs and see her full feature length rocku-docku-dramadey Rev. Yolanda's Old Time Gospel Hour - The Movie (www.goyolanda.com). She is absolutely fabulous! For more information, visit www.Yolanda.net