Live Review: Cyndi Lauper Sings The Blues

Cyndi Lauper
August 21, 2010
House Of Blues, Las Vegas, NV


The last time I really thought about Cyndi Lauper, it was 1984 and I was an 11 year old trying to understand the sexual metaphors lacing the ‘She Bop’ video. Being a huge wrestling fan at the time, seeing Captain Lou Albano in the ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ video gave Cyndi a special place in my new wave heart but I never owned a record of hers. My new wave tastes eventually moved in other directions and I lost track of Cyndi Lauper. At the House of Blues in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Cyndi Lauper introduced a new phase of her overlooked career that challenged her core fans but left no doubt of her passion and talent.

For eight straight weeks, Lauper has had the #1 album on the Billboard charts but has flown under the radar. She is not again flying high on the popular music charts like she did in 1984. Her new album Memphis Blues has become a major hit on the Billboard Blues charts and has earned the respect of the blues community many of whom appear on the album, such as B.B. King, Johnny Lang, and Allen Toussaint. Taking the stage in a black slip, torn tights, high heels, and a white snakeskin coat with an eruption of lava red hair atop the ensemble, Lauper looked smashing as she thanked the audience for supporting the album.

Over the next hour, the band played nothing but the blues as Lauper preached its importance in-between songs. Noting that all music, even her new wave pop classics, all trace their existence back to the early blues greats, Lauper appeared determined to convert the audience, most of whom were itching for ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ after the first few songs. Resisting Lauper would be difficult. Her quirky rambles are charming and more importantly, her voice can roar with unexpected power. On the Muddy Waters classic ‘Rollin & Tumblin’, she swaggered back and forth across the stage with the audience breathless in their appreciation. Her backing band of ace blues players, including legend Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, were often times looking at each other with smiles, probably wondering where this feisty New Yorker learned to sing the blues. Simple in structure, blues require an authenticity that often goes forgotten in modern music but Lauper possesses it. There was nothing forced about her performance and her loose, free wheeling take on the revered ‘Crossroads’ showcased a band and singer letting music flow from the heart.

Returning to the stage for an extended encore, Lauper delivered the hit songs that the audience craved. Working within the framework of her blues band, songs like ‘Change of Heart’ and ‘She Bop’ took on more R&B tones, which suited them well. As Lauper pointed out earlier in the night, beneath the synths and drum programming of 1984, her songs were rooted in traditional music styles. That may explain why they have held up better than many of the 80’s new wave classics. The band finished with one more blues tune, a Memphis Slim cover of ‘Mother Earth’ before stepping away as Lauper sent the appreciative audience home with the gentle ‘True Colors’. It was just enough of the popular hits to satisfy her loyal followers and everyone left in awe of Cyndi Lauper, the blues singer.

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Tags: Blues, Cyndi, House, Las, Lauper, Of, Vegas

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on August 29, 2010 at 10:14am
Wow, I had no idea. I'd written her off years ago for "Girl Just Wanna Have Fun". I almost didn't read this post only because it was about her. Glad I did. Thanks for an informative well written review!
Comment by Daniel T on August 29, 2010 at 9:18pm
Cindy is quite the chameleon. I can believe this new work is great because I once heard her sing an extraordinary, convincing, version of "White Man's Blues" live. Still trying to find a copy of her doing that. Thanks for the heads up on this new one.
Comment by Tom on August 31, 2010 at 4:15am
My wife and I have seen her numerous times since 1993's Hat Full Of Stars. She has an incredible voice, and her live performances are always accentuated with crack musicians. The current blues songs are a great vehicle for her talent. It disappoints me that people don't give her a chance based on her youthful digressions.
Comment by FallenBuckeye on August 31, 2010 at 4:22am
Not too surprised. Forced to listen to her pop albums by a friend, there seemed to me to be more to Cyndi Lauper than expressed in her top-40 offerings.
Comment by Holly Figueroa O'Reilly on August 31, 2010 at 10:57am
Cyndi can sing anything, (since her debut, "She's So Unusual", she's put out jazz, punk, disco, and...well, you name it, she's done it...I think something like 20ish or more records in all...)

I don't think she was necessarily out to prove that point with this record, but she certainly has...blues is hard to sing, and she pulls it off amazingly. It doesn't hurt that she has some of the best blues players ever on her record, and in her live show.

Thanks for the great review. I'm looking forward to her Seattle show. (September 2, Woodland Park Zoo.)
Comment by Damngivers on August 31, 2010 at 10:59am
I'm glad for her. But one thing I remembered even from those early days was her voice. She's got a full octave range (or had) and she began in a rock-a-billy band, if I'm remembering correctly. I have the lucky fortune to do work with Bug Music publishing and they admin the rights to "Rollin' and Tumblin'". Over the past week, I've been hearing her version of the song and it reminded me of the power of her voice. Add that to conviction and I'm sure a lot of real world experience and it would seem she'd be a pretty good messenger of the blues. Tourchlight stuff, too. Thanks for the nice review.

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.