FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Cyndi Lauper, right, performed with lead guitarist Knox Chandler during her New Year's Eve concert Monday at the Sheraton Waikiki.
Lauper’s act starts warm and gets hot
Give an excitable crowd enough booze, food, holiday cheer and noisemakers, and you've got a room full of electricity. Add Cyndi Lauper to the mix and the air positively crackles.
Lauper, on the first leg of a tour headed to Australia, kicked off a New Year's Eve celebration Monday at the Sheraton Waikiki. Although the show was occasionally marred by balky stage monitors that seemed to annoy sound-perfectionist Lauper, she troopered through with high-energy performances of her apparently bottomless quiver of great songs, most of which she wrote.
The pumped-up opening chords of "Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)" immediately flung the 54-year singer on stage, where she climbed amps, leaped into the audience and dashed back and forth with the goosed energy of a performer a third her age.
One of her dangling earrings flew right off her head and broke. "Where's your earring, Cyndi?" a fan shouted.
"Aw, it wasn't made for rockin'. I'll fix it," Lauper said, scooping up the pieces. "I always do!"
Lauper, dressed all in black satin and see-through tulle, also wore a kind of corset outfitted with microphone remote controls and transmitters attached, rather like Batman's utility belt. Throughout the show, she was able to make minute sound adjustments, many of which were fairly inaudible to the juiced-up crowd.
A couple of times, Lauper simply sat and chatted, breaking down that invisible wall between players and listeners.
Most of the songs were hugely familiar, with the exception of "Set Your Heart," Lauper's newest release. She performed it with the aid of an acoustic Ovation guitar, which she also used for a reimagined, bluesy edition of "She-Bop" -- from her "Body Acoustic" album -- transforming the sly self-indulgence of the bubbly original into a manifesto of an adult woman with a few miles under her wheels.
By this point, the sound problems seemed to resolve, and Lauper and her four-instrument, one-voice band began to gel. They kicked into high gear with Prince's "When U Were Mine" and Lauper's umpteen-octave pipes took off, soaring like a rocket and cutting like a Ginsu. What had been a pretty good show crossed over into brilliance and never retreated.
Although Lauper's voice now has a throaty huff in the lower registers, unlike the pure, choir-girl trilling of her early recordings, the experience edge makes her a more believable singer, whose vocal gymnastics run the gamut of emotions. When she's in the pocket of a song, Lauper's transported by the sheer joy of creating glorious notes out of her body, through her throat and into the air, and she takes us along.
That, plus her highly amusing drama-queen stage presence, quirky charm, core decency and extraordinary good taste in creating pop music, makes Cyndi Lauper an artist still to be dealt with. She's a contender.
"I love you, Cyndi!" was a shout heard from the audience, over and over.
"That's 'cause you don't hafta live with me!" Lauper finally muttered.
By the end, when Lauper amped up the anthemic "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and leaped into the crowd and then up onto a dining table to sing atop a pyramid of surging fans, it was interesting to see their reactions. Instead of grabbing at her, they'd reach out and pat her back or shoulder, a gesture of fondness and affection. Cyndi Lauper is safe in their womb of adoration.