“Ha-wa-ya?” Cyndi Lauper screamed. Roughly translated, that was Lauper’s way of asking “how are you” in her Minnie Mouse, bronx whine. Dressed down and up in red stockings, a black net skirt and a black halter, with shining gold locks cascading down her back, Lauper was the visual equivalent of her accent.
And as she bopped and bounced about the stage like a kwepie doll come to life-Cyndi the queen of kitsch had come to… be herself? In fact, she was, but not the Cyndi Lauper that the crowd might have expected. Instead, Lauper the celebrity and Lauper the image gave way to Lauper the performer.
Her show at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center was a dazzling display of musical invention, emotion and, there’s no other word for it, beauty. Yes, she danced and posed and slurred her vowels just the way she always has, but she also sang with power and range that sent chills. Whether screeching “Good enough for me” or crooning the luxurious melody of “True Colors” Lauper managed to infuse her songs with a sense of commitment that had nothing to do with “playing the hits” this was particularly apparent on Boy Blue in which she bewailed the loss of a friend, her voice trembling with feeling. at the end of the song, she lay on stage, alone in the spotlight. It was part of the show, of course, carefully staged and rehearsed for effect. But the way she sang made the staging seem real and affecting.
When that song ended and the first delicate notes of all through the night wlled up, the sense of release and rebirth was palpable. Stunning. As soon as that song was finished, Lauper was back to the image again, spouting off in her dizzy way about her autoerotic masterpiece “She Bop”.
“The abuse I took about this song changed my life”, she vamped, camping it up for the crowd. Pure Lauper. But then she sang the song with a nervous energy that was affecting in its way. And all the while the hits kept coming. Time After Time was delivered with a melodic loveliness that was equaled only by that of True Colors. On both these songs, Lauper transcended the screams and the the visual glitz with a voice that ached with emotion.
She didn’t perform these songs, she sang them. Actually, the same could be said for all of the songs of the show. At a time when many performers are content to parade their hits before fans who, in turn, ask for nothing more, Lauper has a certain integrity-musical integrity-that is as strong and singular as her public persona, the fact that she is able to be both simultaneously makes her truly amazing and “unusual”.