Review and Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents (https://www.dannyzeliskopresents.com/ )
Venue: ASU Gammage (https://www.asugammage.com/ )
Date: Sunday May 7th, 2023
Tour: Black Mona Lisa Tour Volume One
Billy Porter’s Social Media connections:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/theebillyporter
I am going to break this review into 2 parts. The first will be my impression of the actual concert. To get a better understanding of who Billy Porter really is, the second part of the review will be his bio.
Part I – The Show Review
I have seen a number of shows at ASU Gammage over the last 50 years. I saw Sir Elton John and Arlo Guthrie there back in the 70s and 80s. Recently I got to see Hamilton the Musical. Gammage was built by the late great Frank Lloyd Wright and is one of the historical grand music halls in the USA. Tonight, we came to see one of the premier Broadway and screen performers, Billy Porter.
Let’s get this over with quickly, Billy Porter is gay, SO WHAT. I have seen many outstanding gay performers over the years including Sir Elton John, Freddie Mercury, George Michaels, and Rob Halford. For most of Billy’s career this has hurt him. Until his performance in the Broadway hit “Kinky Boots” he was going nowhere. It is now 2023 and Billy Porter has finally become the star that he is.
This show reminded me a lot of those Las Vegas stage shows I saw in the late 60s and 70s. The performer would always talk to the audience and sometimes they would even invite an audience member on stage. Well from the very beginning of the show, Billy asked people from the back of the venue to come forward and fill in open seats in the front. He would also roam the stage and sing, and talk and shake hands with the audience. At one point during the “Kinky Boots” part of the show, he invites two ladies from the audience on stage and they danced and sang with Billy.
The show can be thought of as multiple parts each one where Billy would come out in a different outfit. It started as the Black Mona Lisa segment where Billy was in a black and white dress. Next Billy came out in a frilly pants and open shirt combination. Then came the “Kinky Boots” part of the show where Billy wore bright red thigh length boots. Then Billy wore a black & silver striped jump suit. Next it was a gorgeous blue dress that has multiple waist length cuts so as Billy spun on stage the lower part flowed out. He ended the show in a Black Mona Lisa tee-short, black with silver sparkles pants with matching jacket. The one think constant throughout all of his outfits where the fantastic boots.
Everything about this show shouted, FAB-U-LOUS. However, at times Billy’s language was more adult oriented. He is definitely outspoken and at times did bring up social matters. Again, SO WHAT. If you understood his life, he has every right to be opinionated. We all are the sum of our life experiences and Billy has had more than his share. Personally, I look at a show as, Did I enjoy it. Did I feel better after it was over, Did I have fun. Well, I can say yes to all of these. Billy Porter puts on a spectacular concert. His energy is intoxicating. You will definitely feel alive and happy. I can definitely recommend this concert to everyone.
I have always said that good performers get on stage and just sing and perform. What takes them to the next level is how they interact with the audience. Talking to and making the audience feel like you care about them and that you are willing to interact with them pulls them in and that raises you from a good act to a great act. If tonight’s show was any indication, then Billy Porter is going to be one of the great ones. All I can say is that if you get the chance to see Billy Porter in person, then you owe it to yourself to go. He is a wonderful singer; great performer and his outfits are beautiful.
Please check out Billy Porter on one of his social media pages and especially check out his TikTok page. His website has the rest of his tour dates and locations.
Part II – The Bio
I am not going to try and describe Billy’s personal history myself. Instead, I am going to let the following from the Danny Zelisko Presents website do it because it does a better job than I could.
Grammy, Emmy, and 2x Tony winner Billy Porter brings passion and joy to Phoenix with his first-ever career-spanning pop music concert tour: THE BLACK MONA LISA TOUR: VOLUME ONE. Porter began his music career in 1997 with the release of his debut album, Untitled, that generated the Top 10 single “Show Me,” and “Love Is On The Way,” which appeared in the hit movie First Wives Club. In 2019, Porter scored his first #1 on the Billboard US Dance Club Chart with “Love Yourself.”
“It’s really the first time that I’ve been able to fully express myself and who I am through my music. Through my mainstream pop music space. It’s like my magnum opus. It’s everything to me. You’ll really get a glimpse into who I am even deeper with this music.” –Billy Porter
Porter is a veteran of the theater performing in Miss Saigon, Angels in America and Grease before being awarded the “Best Leading Actor in a Musical” in 2013 for his portrayal of Lola in Kinky Boots. The following year he brought home a “Best Musical Theater Album” Grammy for the Official Kinky Boots Soundtrack.
In 2019, Porter made history as the first openly gay man to take home the “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” Emmy award for his work as Pray Tell in the FX drama series Pose. Time Magazine named him one of the “100 Most Influential People” of 2020. The following year Billy released his highly anticipated memoir, Unprotected, in addition to recording a song for the Red Hot +Free album which supports underserved communities affected with HIV/AIDS.
The summer of 2022 began with Billy receiving his second Tony award as a producer of “Best Musical” A Strange Loop and making his directorial film debut, Anything’s Possible. This year, Billy returns to his first love, music, with the release of his album Black Mona Lisa and a national tour.
Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2023, All Rights Reserved