Cyndi Lauper House of Blues August 12, 2010
See a slideshow of Cyndi Lauper's performance at the House of Blues last night.
Hoping Cyndi Lauper might tackle Lightnin' Hopkins Thursday night proved a little much, but lady can sing the blues. Perhaps sensing that her fans might get fidgety waiting around for the hits - as indeed they did - she told us early on: "It's a blues show, but it's not dead."
Then she showed us. Flitting around the stage in Frederick's of Hollywood getup and fuck-me heels she eventually shed to go barefootin', Lauper was coquettish and light on her feet, graciously pausing behind each of her band members when it came time for their solos.
Hearing those Brooklyn baby-doll vocals singing the musical lifeblood of the South did take a little getting used to. Lauper could never match Etta James for throatiness or range, but she has a lot of torch singer in her too, knowing exactly how long to push and stretch each note and phrase.
By the time she got to B.B. King's "How Blue Can You Get," Aftermath could have cared less whether she ever did "Time After Time" or "She Bop." In academic terms, she sang the hell out of it.
For a good hour, Lauper and her uniformly on-point band traveled up and down Highway 61, from the bubbly barrelhouse New Orleans R&B of "Shattered Dreams" and "Early In the Morning" to the muddy, muddy, muddy "Crossroads" and up-tempo Bobby Blue Bland hip-shaker "Don't Cry No More" that turned into Otis Day & the Knights' "Shout."
She even played some slick Delta slide guitar on "Rollin' and Tumblin'" - she's no Hubert Sumlin, but she obviously knows who he is. Speaking of, "Down Don't Bother Me" made a frisky, feisty side trip to South Side Chicago and the heyday of Chess Records.
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Lauper occasionally paused to offer her thoughts on the blues, how they are the foundation of American pop, yada yada yada. This did not help the already chattery crowd pay attention - not to beat a putrefying horse, but... oh, never mind - but the night's other standout, Lily Greene's "In the Dark" did as it began demurely and swelled into a full-on diva tour de force.
After a quick trip offstage following "Don't Cry No More," Lauper and band returned and finally gave the crowd what they presumably had come to see - albeit with the same soul-steeped tone as before. A disco-ish "Change of Heart" felt rushed until it froze at the coda, and "Time After Time" was, well, "Time After Time" and the crowd finally shut up long enough to sing along.
In between came a knockout version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" done Motown-style with an urgent, pumping bass line (it could have been the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself"), some "Shaft" guitar at the bridge and topped off by Otis Redding's "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)." Sexy, sassy and succinct, it topped off a night - and, for Aftermath, about a month - of the blues with a most welcome shot of sweet, sweet soul.
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Personal Bias: Shrug. We like the blues, and never turn "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" off the radio. Does that count?
The Crowd: A casting call for Cougar Town and scattered middle-aged male couples nibbling each other's necks.
Overheard: "What time is it? Fun 30."
Random Notebook Dump: Lauper stopped her band about 30 seconds the evening's final song, Memphis Slim's "Mother Earth," saying "That's too fast." The second tempo was much more low-down and almost level with the ground.