Considering it was a Friday afternoon with a Heat Index of 107 degrees, most fans somehow made it to the Verizon Theatre on time. Everyone wanted to get there to hear the pairing of contrasting styles of music and some fans even dressed the part to keep alive the 70s and 80s vibe.
The audience cheered when the lights went out and a video played on the screen behind the stage. The band was onstage when the lights came on and Cyndi Lauper came out in a colorful, 60s-themed, flower power suit, a Boy George top hat and carried a small suitcase, and launched right into Wanda Jackson’s rockabilly hit “Funnel Of Love.” Her showmanship hadn’t changed a bit.
As always, Lauper constantly moved, talked to the crowd and told stories. She introduced the next song by saying, “This is for us wankers” as the fan girls behind me went wild for her big hit “She Bop.” Cyndi pulled off her hat and her green wig, revealing her “natural” pink hair.
Ms. Lauper sat on an amp, then laid upside down on a box to sing, “I Drove All Night” with the talented Elaine Caswell backing her. The Songwriting Hall of Fame member used her expansive vocal range to engage the crowd on the Sammy Merendino drum-infused song. A story about a cockroach, a hotel and a Dolly Parton picture preceded a meaningful rendition of “The End Of The World.” She sang it while standing on a rotating platform after putting on a black sparkly jacket with a hood. Cyndi stayed true to the Skeeter Davis hit while still making the song her own.
Making her way into audience to sing “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” part of the crowd engulfed her while the rest of the audience watched videos with professional wrestlers playing on the screen. The guys cheered when they saw Captain Lou Albano, “Classy” Freddie Blassie and “Hot Rod” Roddy Piper. She danced during Alex Nalon’s impeccable guitar solo in “You Don’t Know.” The jam ending poured even more energy into the already-electric crowd.
After taking off her boots and going barefoot, the Tony Award winner for the Musical Score for Kinky Boots raised the bar with the theatrical “Money Changes Everything” with its uptempo shift and outstanding jam session. She banged on the Plexiglas drum shield, mesmerized the fans with her vocal power and range, and laid on her back as the female guitarist straddled her while playing a solo. The fans naturally yelled and screamed in approval.
The audience then went silent as Cyndi plucked the steel guitar for a reverent version of “Time After Time,” one of her 16 Top 25 singles in the US and Dance charts. She engaged the crowd as they sang the refrain of the popular hit. The fans then went absolutely wild for her signature “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” She yelled, “You gotta be loud enough for them bitches to hear you,” then held out the mic for the crowd to yell at the tops of their collective lungs.
Lauper finished her set with “Not My Father’s Son” that seamlessly segued into the compelling lyrics of “True Colors.”Her powerful voice turned the classic hit into a spellbinding live song for the fans to enjoy. She left the stage to cheers and a huge round of applause.
The band was playing as the curtain rose to reveal them in black and white checkered jackets and six backup singers in gold lame dresses. A voice over the loudspeaker then introduced the superstar of the night, Rod Stewart. In remarkable shape for 72 years of age, he came out dancing and kicking then began his set with “Infatuation” in his normal, relaxed manner.
Stewart was constantly in motion during “Some Guys Have All The Luck” containing a wicked sax solo by Jimmy Roberts. Rod then brought out Ms. Lauper for the Motown hit “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)” as they sang and danced together.
Women swayed for “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” and the crowd sang the refrain to the slower hit. He revisited 1972 as the backup singers changed into short plaid skirts and white blouses for “You Wear It Well.” It still sounded fresh and vibrant all these many years later.
Stewart skipped off the stage during the jam that punctuated “Forever Young.” J’Anna Jacoby switched from banjo to violin during the song, showcasing her talent level. It also contained an Irish jig, led by accomplished dancer, Becca Susan. A video of Sir Rod being knighted highlighted “Rhythm Of My Heart,” which was dedicated to the Armed Forces.
The uptempo “Young Turks” showed Rod having fun as the gifted Julia Thornton lit up the entire venue while playing percussion. The rocking “Can’t Stop Me Now” featured videos of a 17-year-old Stewart trying to make his mark in the world. He got down on one knee for Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train,” with its extended sax solo that electrified the fans.
Julia came to the front to play the harp on “The First Cut Is The Deepest,” accompanied by J’Anna on violin. The crowd sang the refrain to this tremendous Cat Stevens cover, but the ladies stole the show on this song. The knowledgeable crowd recognized the opening notes of “Reason To Believe” and reacted accordingly to this classic hit from Every Picture Tells A Story, one of the best of his 30 studio albums.
Stewart commented that you’ll never find any lip-syncing in his shows and then started “Broken Arrow,” a deep cut he hasn’t played in concert in 12 years. Everyone enjoyed the lesser-known tune before he got back to the greatest hits with “You’re In My Heart (The Final Acclaim).” He split the crowd in half to sing different parts as Conrad Korsch laid down a dirty bass beat.
A beautiful rendition of “Have I Told You Lately” thrilled the crowd before getting them all worked up for “Sweet Little Rock And Roll” by the late,great Chuck Berry. The backup singers came back to the stage in little black dresses, but were much more than just eye candy as Di Reed led them in a dynamic version of “Proud Mary.”
Rod the Mod kicked soccer balls into the crowd wrapped in his beloved Glascow Celtics banner during “Hot Legs” as the ladies danced away on stage. The women in the audience went wild for “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” as everyone on the stage was choreographed to play up the disco-era hit. A thumping bass and a dazzling sax had a jamming face-off as part of the rockfest that played as the curtain fell.
The curtain came right back up, though, for the encore and the fans drowned out the band when they began to play “Maggie May.” The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (as a solo artist and as a member of The Faces) put on a cowboy hat as a tribute to Texas and the talented J’Anna made the mandolin scream to the delight of the sold-out venue. The night ended with “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)” by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians to ear-splitting cheers from adoring fans for a night of excellent music, entertainment and nostalgia.
All the fans left with great memories of this night. The music was outstanding, the acoustics were spectacular and the Verizon Theatre staff, as always, were helpful.
The artists were true entertainers and have spent their careers learning how to put together a show that flows and still builds into a climax that leaves the crowd spent. With 150 millions albums sold between them (50 million for Lauper and 100 million for Stewart), they have written and recorded music that is woven into the fabric of rock and roll. Both are still highly active in the music industry and continue to influence the next generation of musicians.
Be sure to see them as they continue their tour through September 3rd with a residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Joe Guzman was on hand to record the event for Infrared Magazine.