WHILE NOT ready to spill all, the Dell Music Center unwrapped a goodly share of the offerings from its 2014 "Essence of Entertainment" concert series yesterday - maybe the earliest the urban concert venue has sprung any seasonal news.
Most exciting - the Dell is bringing back Roberta Flack for the first time in more than a decade, to headline a show July 24 along with Peabo Bryson. He's likely to duet with the Godmother of Neo-Soul on some of the songs (like "The Closer I Get To You") that Flack used to sing so well with Donny Hathaway. New Birth and Bloodstone will share this night of music.
A couple of classic funk faves who usually play the Keswick will be making long overdue Dell debuts - Larry Graham with Graham Central Station and the Average White Band. That combo is happening Aug. 28 on a bill that also features "The Masters of Funk" - a grab bag of Lenny Williams, The Bar-Kays, Lakeside and L.T.D.
Late blooming, rough-hewn R&B singer/keyboardist Lyfe Jennings and fusion-minded (R&B/rock/electronic) guitarist Sebastian Mikael are the most novel, first-time Dell bookings announced so far, paired on a July 31 show with returning faves Fantasia and Dru Hill.
Alain Joinville, public affairs coordinator for city Parks and Recreation, also announced that oldies-but-goodies the O'Jays and Will Downing will open the East Fairmount Park amphitheater's season on July 10.
At least four more shows will be announced - including smooth jazz and gospel nights - as the Dell offers an eight-show series package of Thursday night July/August shows at $400 for a premium seat and $300 for general reserved seating. Those time-limited bundle offerings will be on sale May 8-23 at the Dell Music Center box office, Ridge Avenue and Huntingdon Street. Individual tickets can also be purchased (at $65, $40 and $25) starting the same day at ticketmaster.com and the Dell box office. Phone contact is 215-683-3675.
WDAS will host a separately ticketed show - honoring the 30th anniversary of air talent Mimi Brown - at the city-run facility this summer, a Dell source said.