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A Star’s Turn

Billy Porter’s first nationwide solo tour includes a stop in Houston.

 

Photo by Franz Szony

It’s Billy’s world, and everyone else is finally catching up to him. Star of stage and screen, Billy Porter is sashaying onto stages across the country as he embarks on his first national solo tour. The Grammy, Emmy, and two-time Tony Award-winning singer, composer, director, author, actor, and playwright is bringing his trademark sass, show-stopping voice, and unapologetic authenticity to Houston on May 13.

Porter’s six-week tour, The Black Mona Lisa Tour: Volume 1, is dazzling audiences with 90-minute performances of brand-new songs, including his recent release “Baby Was a Dancer.”

Speaking by phone from New York City, Porter expressed excitement about bringing some joy and love to H-Town. “Audiences can expect real music with a message—music that is celebratory. We’re celebrating life, we’re celebrating love.”

Audiences will also enjoy the full band backing Porter as he tells his life story through song. His iconic career has made him a worldwide superstar, having gained a large following of Broadway fans and viewers of the FX show POSE, to name just a couple of his career highlights. “I’m taking everybody on a little bit of a journey through my life,” he teases. “I am in so many different spaces, so I’m going to use this concert to bring all of my audiences together from all the different spaces [that they know me from], because music is a universal language.”

With a professional career that began decades ago, Porter has a lot of ground to cover in 90 minutes. “This tour is all about me, and this moment is on my own terms. My first R&B album came out in ’97. It was not a safe place for queer men of color—or anybody who was queer—at that time, really,” Porter recalls. “It’s so wonderful to be back and doing it on my own terms. I’m grateful to have lived long enough to see the day where my true, authentic self is celebrated, and my queerness is my superpower. So, you can expect that we’re going to be celebrating all of that.”

Porter promises that this tour will be a treat beyond compare for his tried-and-true fan base. “There’s a bunch of new music, and I’m also going back to my first album and doing a medley of that, so we’ll see who the real fans are!” he laughs, offering a glimpse of his set list. “I have a Kinky Boots section and I’ve gotten some requests from out in the world, so I’m open to ideas.”

Always aiming to please his fans, Porter explains that some songs didn’t make the cut this time. “You know, I’m not trying to be up there for four hours!” he exclaims humorously. “There’s a lot to discover as one is putting something like this together.”

Aside from the wide-ranging set list, Porter has been putting his stamina to the ultimate test as he gears up for his 25-city run of shows—including cycling while singing to make sure he can maintain his endurance. “I’ve started yoga and I’m going to Pilates. I’m just getting back into it and jumping back on the horse. I’ve gotta be a good boy for the next couple of months. No smoking!”

 

The out-and-proud performer looks forward to bringing his unique perspective and his message of love and inclusion to his fans nationwide. “I’m very political and I’m very outspoken. I’m a person who speaks the truth and speaks my mind, and I will continue to do that,” Porter says of his stance on political issues. “My tone when speaking about what’s happening right now comes from a place of positivity and a place of healing, as far as I’m concerned, because the change has already happened—which is why there’s so much pushback. That’s why it’s so difficult right now.”

Porter invites all Houstonians to join him in celebrating life, and he especially encourages the LGBTQ community to double down on “what we know is true and real, and to show up as our authentic selves, always and forever.” He adds that the simple fact of our existence is a political act, in and of itself.

Porter hearkens back to his childhood as he speaks directly to those who aren’t as confident or ready to live their lives outwardly and honestly. “I told myself, hold on. I told that to myself—just hold on. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep believing in yourself and keep doing it. You keep showing up, the doors will open. But you have to put the right energy out. And the energy is to keep moving forward. Always.”


WHAT: Billy Porter’s The Black Mona Lisa Tour: Volume 1
WHEN: May 13, 8:00 p.m.
WHERE: Bayou Music Center, 520 Texas Ave.
INFO: theebillyporter.com

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Zach McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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