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My Summer In The '80s, Part 4-Joan Jett & Cyndi Lauper Deliver A Double Dose of Musical Memories



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My Summer In The ‘80s, Part 4—

Joan Jett & Cyndi Lauper Deliver A Double Dose of Musical Memories

By John Voket

It may not be the oddest summer tour coupling in recent memory, but the double bill of Joan Jett and Cyndi Lauper which rolled through the region a couple of weeks ago, certainly presented a diverse variety of material whether you came to see one or both of these ‘80s-era pop stars.

If you hearken back to your own high school or college days, most of you probably remember having a classmate or two like Jett and Lauper.

There’s the tough-talking, hard rocking, leather sporting type like Jett who’s take-no-crap attitude fits perfectly with the buzz saw guitar licks and raspy, sexually-charged lyrics she delivers with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. And there’s the squeaky, ditsy type like Lauper who is entertaining to watch as she whirls around like a dervish, but who can come out of left field and stop you in your tracks with a sudden soulful burst of song that belies her very kooky public façade.

So any fan who came out to the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford August 11 got to witness a very interesting double bill – a little bit of rock, a little bit of pop, and a whole lot of justification for why these two are still going strong as we move through this early stage of the 21st Century.

Jett hit the stage first with about an hour’s worth of material that spanned her career and offered a couple of samples from an upcoming release due early next year. While the new material certainly had plenty of the Jett trademark attitude, the songs generally provided necessary spots in the set for those who came to hear the hits to duck out for some refreshment.

She hit the stage with her three backing musicians chugged through a few fan favorites like “Cherry Bomb,” “Do You Wanna Touch Me” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Light of Day” from the movie soundtrack of the same name.

After some banter with the crowd Jett kicked things up a notch with a blistering rendition of “Bad Reputation” that seemed to tap a Ramones influence. She dropped her guitar for a few minutes and prowled the stage with microphone in hand showcasing a pair of tunes from the upcoming release, Naked, and then proceeded into a rocking version of the Mary Tyler Moore theme, “Love is All Around,” which got the audience’s attention.

A couple more new songs followed before the trademark power chords of “I Love Rock and Roll” rolled across the crowd and brought them back to their feet singing along and dancing in the aisles. She kept the audience engaged with her cover of “Crimson and Clover,” following up with “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”

After a quick trip to the wings, Jett returned with what I thought was the surprise and highpoint of the show: a rocking rendition of “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show Broadway revival in which she starred. She kept the covers going with the funky Sly Stone, EveryDay People, before she bid everyone good night.

After what seemed like a prolonged intermission – an usher told me Jett went over her time limit, which delayed the headline set – Cyndi Lauper slinked onto the stage. Could this be the same zany ditz who’s rainbow-colored dreadlocks inspired a generation of girls to just have fun?

With instrumentation that included a violin player, Lauper opened her set with the sultry standard “At Last,” a far cry from what one might expect if they only knew her from her string of ‘80s hits. But she quickly bonded with the audience by climbing down into the front row to belt out her next number, “Shine,” surrounded by the shiny, upturned faces of her fans.

For the next few numbers which included “Change of Heart,” “Eventually,” and a stunning rendition of “Walk on By,” Lauper seemed to go into and out of her own little world, alternately playing to the house and then turning away for entire verses as she directed her attention to the drummer. At times she brought the ire of a few members of the weeknight crowd when she talked for an uncomfortable length of time between several songs.

At other times she had them rolling with self depreciating humor, answering fans who kept screaming out “We love you, Cyndi,” with this snappy comeback:  “…don’t confuse the music with the person singing them…I could be a nose picker!” With that quick quip, she punctuated the comment by crooning the Eric Burden classic, “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood.”

Throughout these numbers, Lauper switched from fronting the band, to active participant contributing dulcimer, acoustic guitar, finally donning her five-inch “cha-cha heels for the Mariachi-flavored cover of “Stay (just a little bit longer).” She followed with a very brave interpretation of “She-Bop” complete with concertina and a French-themed waltz beat, “Sisters of Avalon,” and an energized version of “I Drove All Night.”

She wrapped up the main set with a long story about her unexpected hit “True Colors,” which was originally penned as a quiet funeral tribute for a friend who had lost his battle with AIDS. This was probably Lauper’s best number of the evening, although the set went on to deliver very accessible versions of the drum-heavy “It Had to Be Me” and “Money Changes Everything.”

After a brief moment backstage, Lauper returned with an a capella “Fearless,” followed by a cut-short “Time After Time.” Somewhere around the end of the first verse, while she sat center stage with her dulcimer, someone in the audience apparently flicked something that hit Lauper square in the face.

This brought on a tirade like I haven’t seen for some time. She jumped up calling for the person who would have such audacity as to defile what was of course, my favorite song, but after a minute or two of fuming threats and profanity, Lauper commented, “…so you don’t want any more slow songs, alright, so you ruin it for everybody who came out to hear them.”

She counted down the band, delivering the back-to-back “Iko, Iko” and an uninspired “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” before stomping off the stage as the house lights came up signaling the show was definitely over.

While the unexpected ending certainly didn’t ruin the show overall, it was unfortunate that the misdirected initiative of one person caused an unhappy ending to what was certainly a worthwhile and credible performance from two of the more eclectic alumni from MTV’s class of ‘80s survivors.

If you missed her, Cyndi Lauper is scheduled to co-headline the 12th Annual Michael Bolton Charities Benefit Concert on Sunday, September 12,  at The Palace Theatre, 61 Atlantic Street in Stamford.

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