Cyndi Lauper Hits The Holy City
When it was announced that Cyndi Lauper would be playing the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, I was definitely interested in going. When it was announced that, in honor of its 30th anniversary, Lauper would perform the album She's So Unusual in its entirety, I was ecstatic. The night of the show I had a lot of fun watching her fans, many of whom were my age or older, parade around in various forms of '80s fashion. There was plenty of neon colors, torn sweatshirts, leggings, and tacky jewelry on display, and for a few moments, the lobby of the PAC started to look like the halls of Wando High School when I was a student there in the '80s.
Lauper had selected a band from Canada, Hunter Valentine, as her opening act. I'd never heard of the all-female band, but I'm a fan now. Led by impressive singer/guitarist Kiyomi McCloskey, who was channeling Joan Jett that evening, Hunter Valentine definitely got the crowd pumped up for the eventual arrival of Lauper.
Once she took the stage, Lauper was backed by a five-piece band that included two keyboardists (remember, she rose to popularity in the '80s, the decade of the synthesizer). Lauper, who was sporting bright red hair and a yellow leather jacket, kicked into "Money Changes Everything," the first track from She's So Unusual.
As she wound her way through the songs on the album, she spied a fan in the first few rows taking photos of her on their smartphone. After "Time After Time" she spoke up, asking the fan why he or she (I couldn't see if it was a man or a woman) was looking at her through the phone when she was right there live and in person. The fan replied that they loved her. "I love you too," replied Lauper, looking a bit annoyed. "I love you, you love me, it's like Barney," she said, referring to the popular purple dinosaur. "You don't know though. I might be a big bee-yotch." Lauper then went on to tell a story about the events that inspired "Time After Time."
She got a bit sidetracked at times, always attempting to bring the conversation back to its intended path by saying, "But I digress." That turned out to be the phrase of the night, because while Lauper put on a great show and did indeed perform She's So Unusual all the way through, she also talked in between songs... a lot. Now, I'm not against between-song banter. I love hearing what's on an artist's mind or what inspired a particular song. In Lauper's case, however, less would have been more at the July 3 show at the PAC. There were some great moments, such as when Lauper recalled being in a drugstore during the recording of She's So Unusual and being asked by an older woman about her clothes. "She said, 'What is this?' referring to my outfit. I said, 'Oh, this is what your daughter is going to be wearing next year," said Lauper, getting a huge laugh. Unfortunately, though, she didn't stop there. Several of her talks between songs felt like they went on for more than 10 minutes. If between-song banter was a band, Lauper would be Phish.
After playing hits like "All Through the Night" and "She Bop," Lauper produced a ukulele in preparation for the title track to She's So Unusual, which on the album is a short tune sung by Lauper in her trademark Betty Boop voice. Of course, she had a story about the ukulele, but once she was done with that she played the tune, then the band kicked into "Yeah Yeah," the album's final track.
After a brief break, Lauper returned to the stage alone carrying a dulcimer. She first sang an a cappella version of "Sally's Pigeons," a song from her 1993 album Hat Full of Stars, which was followed by a beautiful version of the hit "True Colors" sung by Lauper as she strummed the dulcimer. After a quick goodbye to the crowd Lauper was gone and the house lights came up. While I was hoping for a few more songs from her back catalog, getting to see Lauper perform an album I love in its entirety was great. I'm guessing that the breaks between songs might have been a chance for Lauper to rest her voice, which seemed as strong last week as it was in the '80s. Lauper just turned 60, but she shows no signs of slowing down. Taking into account her recent triumphs on Broadway, it would appear that Lauper is just getting started.