In one of many charming stories at her Town Hall show last night, Cyndi Lauper talked about how she and her bandmates marveled after hearing the great Allen Toussaint play “Shattered Dreams” for the first time.
“They said it was voodoo,” Lauper told Toussaint, who joined her onstage for the song. “I had to tell them that some people just naturally play like that.”
The same can be said for Lauper.
As strong as her new “Memphis Blues” album is, Lauper’s take on blues classics from Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland and others really flourishes in concert.
Though the combination of “Down Don’t Bother Me” and “Down So Low” were as traditional as blues readings get, Lauper’s take on Johnson’s “Crossroads” is a thrilling twist on the classic, as her upper-register pleas inject the song a different kind of energy. Her update of “Mother Earth” – which she called timely because “soon we won’t have to add any oil to our shrimp” – showed how timeless the blues can be.
For Lauper fans, her upbeat takes on “How Blue Can You Get?” and “Don’t Cry No More” came closest to the poppier sound they were used to, but even when she played her own classics, the blues had seeped into them as well.
With the help of the great Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, the bubbly “Change of Heart” settled into a bluesy simmer, while the malleable “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” went from bluesy to poppy to the reggae-tinged reworking “Hey Now” and back again.
Lauper joked that she was trying to be more sophisticated to match her new blues set, but the 95-minute set showed that blues fans just wanna have fun, too.
(Lauper plays Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday and Saturday.)
SETLIST: Just Your Fool / Shattered Dreams / Early in the Mornin’ / Romance in the Dark / How Blue Can You Get? / Down Don’t Bother Me / Down So Low / Crossroads / Rollin’ and Tumblin’ / Don’t Cry No More / ENCORE: Who Let in the Rain / Change of Heart / Girls Just Want to Have Fun/Hey Now / Mother Earth / True Colors
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