AVA AT CASINO DEL SOL
Sunday, Aug. 15
I was 12 and obsessed with Cyndi Lauper after the release of She's So Unusual in 1983. I was so taken that I replicated her look—down to the pink petticoat, white pumps and a wig that I spray-painted a mosaic of red-orange.
We all may have reservations when we attend a concert by an idol from a nostalgic past; we dread having to endure new material and hope old stuff will rekindle memories. Lauper recently released an album of blues standards titled Memphis Blues, with appearances by some of her own idols: B.B. King, Charlie Musselwhite and Allen Toussaint.
At AVA, in an introduction to King's hit "How Blue Can You Get?," Lauper took a moment for a heart-to-heart while enjoying a blue raspberry lemonade she bought from a vendor in the crowd: "Years ago, I met B.B. King, and I shook his hand, poor as a church mouse and afraid to death of everything. I just have to say, to stand here now just goes to show you: You don't ever know what's around the bend."
It wasn't surprising to hear Lauper's range, from be-boppity falsetto to Bessie Smith baritone; I knew it was in her. But to see her do it— climbing high into the audience trenches while belting out unfathomable pitches on "Just Your Fool"—proved that artists who maintain a passion for their work will continue to shine if the talent is still there. The blues have been with Lauper from the start, and I encourage anyone to buy her first record, Blue Angel (released in 1980 by her pre-fame band of the same name), to hear the evidence.
The evening ended with a touching denouement: Lauper teased the audience into a hip-swaggering intro, slowly singing the line, "I come home in the morning light," before belting into a dubby version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." She carefully led a handful of young she-boppers to the stage to clap and sing—and just as carefully led each girl by the hand back to the audience when it was over. One girl, about 12, lingered with tears in her eyes. She whispered into Lauper's ear: "That was my dream."
She wasn't the only one who felt that way.