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VALERIE SIMPSON AT THE BIRCHMERE
AUGUST 25, 2013 THE BIRCHMERE, ALEXANDRIA VA
In 2008, Ashford and Simpson made a triumphant return to the Washington DC metro area in a performance at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. At the time they commented on their realization that they had been absent for quite some time and their delight that they still had such a strong following. It was no surprise to the sold out audience that the legendary duo still had a many devotees awaiting their arrival.

Since that time they made several return visits to the venue. On Sunday August 25, on the eve of her birthday, Valerie Simpson made her solo return to The Birchmere in a rousing, festive performance.

Entering to the lustrous strains of Bourgie, Bourgie, Ms Simpson brought the heat and launched into the so, so sexy "It Seems To Hang On." Both the woman and the song are still seductive after all these years. It was immediately apparent that she was perfectly willing to carry on with the assistance of her capable 5 piece band. She announced after the first song that her birthday was the following day and she was in full celebration mode and "ready to show out!" And she did!

Billed as "Performing the Music of Ashford & Simpson" the show was a fine mix of songs recorded by Ashford & Simpson and their massive hits recorded by others, including "The Boss" and "I'm Every Woman" - which was dedicated to the memory of Whitney Houston.

Asia Ashford, Simpson's daughter provided background vocals and accompanied on lead vocals on "Stay Free". The dynamic Clayton Bryant sang verses on "Street Corner."

Simpson also included two songs from her recent solo album DINOSAOURS ARE COMING BACK - the dramatic title track and the beautiful, introspective ballad "Trying to Be Perfect."

One particular song she performed came about, as she described it, in a recent conversation with a radio DJ who brought up a particular favorite - "Happy Endings" from A&S' 1980 A Musical Affair LP. During the introduction, an eager fan shouted out a different song title. Valerie replied "that was not the song, but maybe later, if I can pick up some chords, I might sing it."

Much to our delight, after performing that rare gem, she had a brief conversation with her keyboardist, and pianist, she then sang "Silly, Wasn't I." For the die-hard Valerie Simpson fans who recalled her Motown solo LPs, this was a special treat. At that point she declared the request line was closed!

Of course, the emotional highlight occurred when Simpson sat behind the piano and sang the words, “I’ve got your picture hanging on the wall / But it can’t see or come to me when I call your name.” from "Ain't Nothin' Like The Real Thing." The words have an even stronger impact now without Nick Ashford there to respond.

Simpson brought the house down with the spoken "if you need me, call me" version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (as they produced for Diana Ross), the appropriate anthem to close out the evening. For an encore she chose the biggest A&S hit "Solid" to leave the audience singing, cheering and so, so satisfied!

It is gratifying and very special to witness an artist with such an enduring legacy so willing to continue to share so fully of herself with her audience. It was an impressive performance full of power and emotion. As a singer, songwriter, pianist and entertainer, as her late husband wrote in the lyrics of "I'm Every Woman" - it's all in her - she does it naturally!

The Band:
Peter Cannarozzi (piano), Valerie Ghent (keyboards, bk vocals), Bernard Davis (drums), Tinkr Barfield (bass), Todd Schefflin (sax), Clayton Bryant (bk-vocal), Asia Ashford (bk-vocal)


About the Writer
Michael Lewis is a long-time associate at SoulMusic.com. His industry experience includes Sony Music, Motown and La Face Records, and a tenure at HEAR Music. He is grateful to contribute to sustaining the legacy of R&B and soul music.
  
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