Last night, to celebrate my wife’s birthday, we went to MPLs to see Betty LaVette and ensemble, at the Dakota. If you have not yet heard her, it is time. Now is the time. How many ways did Ms. LaVette TEAR IT UP?
1) sheer presence. After being left out of the limelight for over 40 years, Ms. LaVette is being noticed. She commands the stage as a pro, engaging the audience in her thoughts and puts on a show, in the old , eternal sense.
2) She brings unexpected songs to a new light. While I like Neil Young, I have grown weary, weary of the harmonica/guitar shrillness of ” Heart of Gold”. Ms. LaVette entirely brought a new sound, made it her own; new chords, departing from the predictable aspects of the melody. It was amazing to hear ” BLackbird” without the almost required guitar riff… and for the second time in my life, I actually LIKEd lthe song ” Round Midnight” ( which I have grown SOOOOOOO bored of, especially JAZZ players who refuse to use their OWN musical intelligence when “covering” it!!!!!!!)
3) Her band… the ultimate in understatement. How many times have you “heard” a band where the vocalist is obscured in sonic fog while the rhythm section gamboles with impunity? Her band showed the utmost restraint, respect, let Ms. LaVette lead, fill the spaces with her raw, rich power- adding a sound or two to enhance. Very, very tasty, clear, and concise.
4) Not once was I bored. Ms. LaVette played some songs from the “British invasion”, explained the historical context, and yet is beyond having a grudge.
5) Perhaps what is most inspiring is the fact that Betty LaVette has truly changed “poison into medicine” ( to use an SGI Buddhist idea). Now that she has the limelight, she is using it well, encouraging others, showing the power of perseverance, over a long period of time. It is obvious that she has been working on her craft all this time, and it is unlikely that she is going to be defeated by unhealthy functions of life.
6) Long live Betty LaVette!!!!!! Go and find out for yourself the sheer power she wields.