I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with this concert but holy hell was it good. Cyndi Lauper is touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her killer debut album, She’s So Unusual. There are some epic anthems on that album, namely “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Time After Time” but there are also some lesser known B-side tracks that I thought might dampen the vibe. That is unless she chose to perform some later hits to beef up the set list.
As it turned out, Cyndi Lauper herself was more than enough to keep the show on a high. Cyndi took to the stage in Brisbane, Australia in a wild red wig, wearing sparkling combat boots and an outfit pieced together with leather and lace, looking every bit the rock superstar. Wasting no time at all she punched straight in with “Money Changes Everything” and transformed the seated theatre into a screaming mosh pit as she jumped into the audience during “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.
I’ve gotta say at this point… I’m a massive Cyndi Lauper fan. I love 80s Cyndi, I love reality show Cyndi, and I love Tony Award-winning Cyndi, but I’d never seen her sing live before and I wasn’t sure whether her voice could match up to the album’s original sound. Well, if anything it has gotten better. She sang every song last night with superb clarity and an electric pop-rock edge.
There was none of the huge production you’d expect say Gaga or Madonna to have. Cyndi’s show was all about her voice, her band, and her audience. But that felt bizarrely refreshing after recent VMA craziness, and I was struck by how entertained I felt without all the costume changes. Having been hounded by press for comments all month, the VMAs were clearly on Cyndi’s mind when she first came out. She joked as she began the intro to the show, Just so’s you know, I’m not Miley. I don’t wanna talk about her. I’m not Miley.
After “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, Cyndi climbed back on stage and jovially greeted her audience. She told them that she finds it hard to sing some of the songs in the same way every show but she promised she hadn’t changed any song arrangement too much because she knows her fans want to hear the originals. This illicited cheers and “awww”s from the crowd. She also warned the audience that she’d be talking a bit throughout the show to break up the set list.
And Cyndi sure does love to chat. Other reviewers have lamented this, claiming that her showbiz stories and quirky ramblings eat into the show but I totally disagree. I love it when singers tell you about the inspirations behind their work and you can’t beat the odd gossipy industry tidbit! Cyndi is a verbal genius if you ask me. Her concert catchphrase was “But I digress...” and thank God she did!
Her stories of what it was like behind the scenes when recording songs like “She Bop” back in 1983 would cartwheel into personal anecdotes about taking her son to the park. Revelations like the idea for ‘Time After Time’ came about because I had this alarm clock… it was really f**king loud… were blended with stories about ex-boyfriends (she elaborated on how her then boyfriend, David Wolff, was actually the one who gave her said alarm clock) and then she’d describe meeting various 80s legends: KISS were always in and out of that studio… Paul Stanley once came over and started talking to me about his paintings… that was when I realised… Oh, he’s the sensitive one.
That might have been my personal favourite if not for her loving and hilarious impersonation of Yoko Ono. Apparently Yoko was one of Cyndi’s greatest inspirations… Who knew? I love her! There was just nobody like her at the time except maybe Joni Mitchell but their voices are totally different.
The way she chats to her audience, as though she’s known them forever, is unique in somebody of her calibre. It makes her even more endearing to her fans. When she hops into the audience she holds their hands, hugs them and high fives as many people as she can reach; whenever she speaks to the audience the lights flick on so that she can make eye contact with them. To say that she interacts with her crowd is an understatement.
As the show continued, Cyndi made her way through the She’s So Unusual album with flair and vigor - even the much lesser known tracks like “Witness” and “I’ll Kiss You” were engaging as she bookended each of them with more banter. When opening for The Kinks back in 1983, she joked about how 10,000 people booed her ukulele rendition of “He’s So Unusual” during one show. Those ill-mannered Kinks fans chucked a boatload of quarters at her but she described the incident as a great experience because she learnt to do her “angry dance”, realising that whether 10,000 people boo you all at once or cheer you - it‘s basically the same thing.
She disappeared offstage for the obligatory encore and returned to rapturous applause as she performed a lovely, chilled out version of “True Colors”. Much to my own personal joy she also surprised us with a dance-beat version of “Sex Is In The Heel” one of the tunes she wrote for this year’s Tony Award-winning musical smash, Kinky Boots.
Another thing that impressed me was the diverse nature of the audience - all ages were well and truly represented. Though this meant Cyndi had to curb some of her curse words to benefit the under sixteens - she wasn’t too good at this - it was great to see an authentic crossover artist. It’s easy to understand her appeal within the young adult market: Demi Lovato has a similar rocky edge to her voice; Gaga enjoys a similar level of audience interaction and most pop fandoms these days share a colourful love of wigs. If anything, I’m shocked more of us “young people” haven’t yet hopped onto the Cyndi train. Why hasn’t her management tried to expand her fanbase? It feels like forever since we saw Cyndi Lauper promote a new hit on GMA.
After seeing her live it just seems crazy to think the 80s pop icon is sixty years old because she brings such flawless energy to her music and she looks fab. Seriously, watching the singing, dancing, multiple instrument playing Cyndi Lauper perform her She’s So Unusual 30th anniversary concert tour is like watching the sun roar. Every bit the star, every bit the triumph.
If you’ve missed out on getting tickets this time around make sure you keep an eye out as it sounds as though she’ll be back on tour very soon.
For now, here’s Cyndi performing “Time After Time” live at Jools’ Annual Hootenanny last year: