As a number of musicians “of a certain age” are apt to do lately, Cyndi Lauper has decided to do a “classics” album. Her genre of choice, blues, and the album in question is Memphis Blues, which she’s currently touring.
Now, i’m about as big a fan of the blues as they come. Hell, i worked at the world’s premier blues club all throughout college, so trust me when i tell you i know of which i speak. While i’m giving Cyndi full props for trying to bring interest to a criminally undervalued music genre, for the vast bulk of her show, i just wasn’t feeling it. Her band might be worthy of the Friday night early slot that goes on during the free buffet. Of course, this is downright criminal when you consider that she’s touring with none other than Charlie Musselwhite. i’ve seen Chuck countless times over the years, and normally he’s one of the baddest harmonica cats you’ll ever hear the pleasure of hearing. Unfortunately, he sounded largely tired and/or bored for most of Saturday night’s performance.
i’ve decided to give the huge benefit of the doubt that the countless technical difficulties of the evening kept the band from ever finding its groove. Hell, you can’t have Charlie Musslewhite on stage and not have more blues talent right there than the rest of the city had in all its juke joints combined. Still, Lauper must have gone through three or four mics, at least two sets of ear plug monitors and quite possibly one sound guy during the course of the roughly hour and a half set (with encore). Occasionally, on songs like “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” Lauper would get hold of the track and really belt it out to her obvious and capable levels, but those moments sadly were few and far between.
Of course, all this went out the door for the encore, when Cyndi finally did a few of her own classics (“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “True Colors”) before closing with an acoustic, stripped down version of “She Bop” that had the crowd rocking. Once the older material started, the room went wild, and, more importantly, Lauper looked like she genuinely was enjoying herself. Hell, i’m not too proud to admit the nostalgia factor is what had me and The Missus attend in the first place (this was the first show i’d taken her to in months, as The Missus isn’t quite the fan of live music that her terrible husband is). If this energy had run rampant all through the night (that’s right, i wrote it), this would have been a much different evening.
Lauper has gone from the oddly coiffed freak of the 80s to a powerful voice for the LBGT community, but let’s be honest, a meaningful portion of the crowd was there to hear her tell her genuinely funny stories between songs. Fortunately, she used that time to point out some of the greats in the blues industry, from B.B. to Albert King. Fuck what you heard, this is what you need to hear. As so-so as the majority of the show might have been, a history lesson like that was more than worth the price of admission.