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Posted: 12:25 a.m. Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Show review: Cyndi Lauper is still so unusual  

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Cyndi Lauper at Stubb's
Tammy Perez / For American-Statesman
Despite a few microphone issues, Cyndi Lauper's voice was in fine form and while at 60 years old she wasn't bopping around like she used to, she brought great energy to the stage.

By Deborah Sengupta Stith

A near-capacity crowd comprised almost entirely of 30 and 40-somethings pushed into Stubb's BBQ for Cyndi Lauper's 'She's So Unusual' 30th anniversary tour on Tuesday night. The audience was somewhat surprisingly gender balanced and, also surprisingly, only a handful of ladies proudly sported lace skirts and neon headbands. It was a hot night but there was a pleasant breeze and spirits were high. 

Cyndi Lauper, clad in black leather and lace and sporting the same sort of colorful hair extensions she wore 30 years ago took the stage to raucous applause shortly after her scheduled 9 p.m. start time. With little ado she launched into "Money Changes Everything" the lead track from her 1983 album followed immediately by the mega hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Despite a few microphone issues her voice was in fine form and while at 60 years old she wasn't bopping around like she used to she brought great energy to the stage. She continued to run through the album's tracklist playing through the Prince cover "When You Were Mine" before pausing.

"Where was I," she muttered, wandering around the stage in a feigned senior moment before launching into a beautiful rendition of "Time After Time." It was after that, one of the album's obvious high points that she proved her mettle as not just a musician but a master of showmanship. She took what could have been an anticlimatic moment in the set and began to chat endearingly with the audience. She explained that this was the first time she had ever done this sort of full album performance so she didn't break in the first several songs to ensure that we'd feel the experience of the album. Then she told a lovely anecdote about a conversation she had with Cicily Tyson at the Tony Awards. Tyson, the widow of Miles Davis, loved the song "Time After Time" and would sing it around the house all the time, Lauper recounted. With her persistence Tyson convinced the jazz legend to record his own famous rendition of the song. 

"That was kind of awesome," Lauper understated charmingly. Then, rambling like an old friend she told the story behind the song "She Bop," which included references to vintage porno mags, name dropping 80s legends and a tale of hiding in the corner of the studio, taking off her shirt and tickling herself to elicit the giggles on the track. So the set continued as Lauper, recognizing that the second half of "She's So Unusual" is by far the weaker part of the album bantered delightfully (and often very randomly) between tracks. Describing 1983 as a year that went "from famine to ridiculous" she shared behind the scenes studio stories, lamented her unwise decision to become engaged to her manager and talked about being pelted by quarters and vigorously booed during an opening set for the Kinks shortly before the album blew up. In this manner she kept the audience engaged if not rapt through the last three tracks on the album "Witness," "I'll Kiss You" and "He's So Unusual." 

After closing out the album she left the stage briefly before returning to perform the disco show tune "Sex Is In The Heel" from her Tony Award-winner soundtrack to "Kinky Boots" and "Waiting For Your Change of Heart" before exiting for a second time to louder cheers. Finally she returned for a breathtaking rendition of "True Colors" leading with an a capella intro and breaking in the midst of her most grandiose vocal flourish to cry out "Here's to diversity! If all of us can be equal together we'll be a lot stronger!" drawing the largest cheers of the night. 

NOTE: This blog originally misidentified the "Kinky Boots" songs as "Sex is in Me."

Deborah Sengupta Stith

About Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith is a music writer for the Austin American-Statesman.

Connect with Deborah Sengupta Stith on:Twitter

Send Deborah Sengupta Stith an email.

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