The feisty 63-year-old singer opened with a Wanda Jackson cover song from her new country tribute album, Detour.
The pop icon, who has sold more than 50 million records, belted out the song in her trademark bluesy voice, sounding more like a teenage rock star than a sexagenarian. The singer proceeded to lay down a diverse 14-song set, exhibiting the same crystal clear vocals throughout the entire two-hour performance.
In a style similar to comedian Steve Martin, who recently played in Santa Barbara, Lauper spent as much time injecting witty stories telling into her set as she did the music. The result was obviously endearing to the adoring crowd, who sat patiently through most of the set.
Early in the show, Lauper brought out her opening act performer, Charlie Musselwhite, as her special guest. She praised the 72-year-old harmonica player, who played on her 2010 hit blues album, Memphis Blues. From the Blues, Lauper turned to pop music with a tribute to the R&B rock rhythms of Prince.
The lavish theater at first was under the strict control of a draconian security staff. But late in the set, the mood suddenly changed when Lauper played her 1983 hit cover of “Money Changes Everything,” originally a tune by the punk rock group The Brains. Shortly after she began singing the song, the singer abruptly ordered the band to stop. Eyeing a particularly aggressive security guard, she yelled at him, “Wait, we’re not allowed to dance? I’m up here breaking my a**, and the audience is sitting in their chairs. Where the hell are we, a Mormon church?” With that said, all hell broke loose and the pent-up audience rushed the stage, overwhelming the astonished security guards. From that point, it was game on with the crowd singing, dancing and high-fiving the amped-up singer.
Lauper led her crack band into a two-song encore featuring her two biggest hits. The reworked songs featured a country tinge reflecting the talents of the highly skilled band. The crowd sang nearly every word of “Time After Time” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Lauper earlier had mentioned the latter song, recalling the irony that it was written by a man. Long a proponent of LBGT and equal rights for women, Lauper changed the lyrics at the end of the song and encouraged everyone to sing along, “Girls just want equal funds.”
The beloved singer returned for one last solo encore, playing an acoustic guitar and singing “True Colors.” The song was both the title track and the first single released from Lauper’s second album. She ended the evening by urging everyone to vote, reminding the audience, “It’s the first time in history we can vote for one of us.”
— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.