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Cyndi Lauper at the Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY, Friday, July 13th, 2013

Cyndi Lauper meets the faithful

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beautiful Capitol Theater, with its cathedral-like ceiling and new state-of-the-art sound system, is an amazing place to see a show. It has a majestic history and has been graced by hundreds of star-studded acts since the ’60s. The Grateful Dead played an epic eighteen shows there in a single year, 1970-71, and Jerry Garcia was reported to have said that the Capitol and the Fillmore were his favorite places to play in the entire world. The venue deteriorated throughout the ’80s and in recent years hosted only fundraising events and bar/bat mitzvahs, but it was transformed in a tremendous renovation and reopened last year with Bob Dylan as its first performer.

On Friday night, Cyndi Lauper shared with the crowd there that when she was 17, she took a Metro North train up to Port Chester to see Derek and the Dominoes. She said that as she watched the show, she would have never in her wildest dreams have imagined that someday she would be on the stage herself, having experienced all the successes she has enjoyed. We have certainly enjoyed it all with her.

When I say “we,” I mean the faithful, the fans who were swept away by “She’s So Unusual” and have loved her ever since. Though she cultivates new, young fans through her LGBT advocacy and just because she’s interesting and quirky, the vast majority of the people at the show were my age (ahem, mid-40-ish) or older. Actually, it was the most geriatric crowd I’ve ever seen at a concert, with many people looking to be in their sixties (I made extra space during the shuffle out after the show to accommodate a lady struggling up the ramp using a cane). This is really not too surprising, since Cyndi herself just turned sixty last month (**Cyndi Lauper** is SIXTY years old!). This concert tour celebrates the 30th anniversary of the release of “She’s So Unusual” and most of the audience obviously owned the original vinyl (or at least the cassette tape).

But this crowd of eager geezers got loud and ready to party as the band hit the stage. The noise rose to a roar as Cyndi came out, decked out in a bright yellow costume, complete with a bowler hat (we all know how she loves bowler hats) that looked like it was made of her own hair from a previous coloring incarnation.

They launched into “Money Changes Everything” and Cyndi was ready to party as well. She strut back and forth across the stage and owned it from the start. Her voice was full and vibrant and she belted out the lyrics with no holds barred.

Following the opener, Cyndi took off the yellow bowler hat and Willy Wonka jacket, revealing goth-y black skin tights and natty red dreds, like Merida from “Brave” after a particularly rough night. Without missing a beat, she reminded us why we were there and went straight into “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” She was her old kooky self, dancing the same moves we all remembered. Girlfriend can still shake it, even if she’ll soon be eligible for social security. She held out her mike at several points to encourage the crowd to sing along, and jokingly asked, “What? Are you too old to sing?” The answer to that may, sadly, be yes.

She turned pensive during “Time After Time,” the personification of time grown weary, leaning on the mike stand, dragging her feet across the stage. Each note was pure and sweet and the crowd emoted along with her. Again without a break, she launched right into “All Through the Night” and continued the nostalgic vibe. She looked like she had to psyche herself up a bit to make it through that killer long note at the end, but she nailed it. Her 30 year old self would have been proud of that vibrato.

Thus the show started with one song after another in quick succession, with lots of energy, showing Cyndi to be still funky, still perky. It all felt a bit rushed, though, as if she wanted to get the popular singles over and done with as soon as possible. She knew that everyone expected those songs, and she didn’t want to disappoint, but she wanted to get to what she considered the meat of the show.

So she started talking, intimate as an old friend who wants to tell you the backstory of the familiar tales she’s been telling you all these years. I’m a historian by training and temperament, so I loved hearing all of these personal accounts of what she was doing and thinking and feeling during the time “She’s So Unusual” was coming together. She told a LOT of stories, and meandered through most of them, letting herself get continually side-tracked. “But I digress…” she said repeatedly. She shared instances in her personal life that had led to lyrics on the album. For example, she told the story of having a boyfriend give her a clock that was so loud that she had to put it in the bathroom to dampen the sound, which is where “Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick and think of you” originated. How cool is that?

In the middle of one story (which was an offshoot of another story), she actually jumped up and down and yelped, “THAT’S what I wanted to tell you!” as she headed back into finishing another story she had started about three stories back. She was absent-minded like all of us middle-aged folks, like your eccentric aunt who always gets lost in her own recollections. And like your dear aunt, sometimes she gets cranky when interrupted. Most of the crowd was eating up all of these amusing anecdotes, as well as the hilarious way she was recounting them, laughing and sighing and living it all along with her. But some people got restless, and one guy started yelling, “SING!” over and over. She shushed him, saying that she had wanted to share her stories along with the songs, offering something special that no one else had ever gotten. The guy was not having it, however, and when she started a story about recording “She Bop” he bellowed, “SING IT!!,” and that was it. Cyndi lost her composure and snapped, “Why don’t you shut the fuck up?” The rest of the crowd cheered their approval. “Why don’t you just go home?,” she continued, and I agreed. If he just wanted to hear the music, why didn’t he just stay home and listen to the album? Here she was, in the living flesh, giving us the GIFT of her real self, sharing what her life had been like, what had made her scared and joyful and despairing and triumphant.

She was a little impatient with positive interruptions as well. In the middle of one of her stories, another guy called out, “I LOVE YOU CYNDI!!” She stopped in mid-sentence and said, “Yeah, I love you too.” The crowd cheered. “But,” she continued, “you understand, right, that when we say that, it’s rhetorical.” Big laugh from the crowd.”Because, you don’t know, I might go home after this and be a total biotch. And you might be the same. Don’t confuse the music with the person.” Then she smiled and tried to soften the blow. “But don’t worry! I do it too!”

She also got annoyed with people sticking cell phones in her face and taking pictures as she came down into the crowd and even while she was on stage. “Easy there!,” she said several times as people snapped her picture. She chided a couple of guys for recording continuously while she was talking, “Can you just live in the moment here? Tomorrow you’re going to look at your cell phone and go, ‘Oh yeah, I was there!'”

Eventually she did get around to singing “She Bop,” as well as other songs off the album. “Witness” totally rocked, which surprised me a bit because I don’t remember being particularly impressed with the song at the time. “I’ll Kiss You” was fun but, like on the album, still felt a bit like filler. One of my favorite moments of the whole show was when she pulled out her ukelele and (after telling another story about playing her ukelele during an early gig) sang “He’s So Unusual” in her lovely high-pitched Betty Boop voice. She brought out some cute props during these numbers: a tiny mirror ball that she spun in front of herself, and a light stick that she used to illuminate her face.

The band cleared the stage, and didn’t make the crowd scream for too long before coming back for the encore (a good thing, too, given the advanced age of most of the audience). Cyndi brought the opening band, Hunter Valentine, back out to sing “She Bop,” which was a very nice gesture. Since it was the encore, I suppose she no longer felt obligated to stick to “She’s So Unusual” and moved on to other work. She mentioned “Kinky Boots” and did a terrific number from the show, “Sex is In the Heel.” Demonstrating that even after all the previous jamming and chatting, she still had plenty of juice, and she totally rocked “Shine.”

She went back into storytelling mode, and shared the story of her black bowler hat, and how “Hat Full of Stars” came to be. Then she poured her whole heart into singing the song, the mood of which was sadly marred by a fight that apparently broke out near the back of the floor (seems some geezers can still throw down). There was a lot of shouting and bustle, which must have been distracting, but she kept on course and saw the beautiful song to the end, the most theatrical number of the show. She remarked on the disturbance after the song, as she sat down with her dulcimer, but she didn’t let it bother her as she capped the show with an incredible rendition of “True Colors.” In the middle, she paused and applauded the Supreme Court decisions striking down DOMA and Prop. 8, but noted all the other challenges to personal freedom that currently exist. She urged the crowd to get involved, and concluded the song on a ethereal note, everyone singing along.

Money may change everything, but time can’t change Cyndi’s heart, or the heart of a fan.

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