Music review: LaVette delivers her funkiest best with sizzling performance at Egg

Bettye LaVette sang her rags-to-shoulda-been-riches-to-rags-to-riches-for-real story on Saturday at

Bettye LaVette sang her rags-to-shoulda-been-riches-to-rags-to-riches-for-real story on Saturday at The Egg’s Hart Theater: a triumph of talent and persistence over bitterness.

The 60-something soul singer funkified the Beatles’ “The Word” from her “Interpretations” album of British Invasion classics to start, dancing non-stop. She had to towel off before launching “Take Me Like I Am,” one of many defiant self-defining songs, then noted that the Brit-pop songs of her boomer-demo audience’s youth were the nemesis of hers, the end of soul music on radio and her career hopes then.

LaVette’s transforming appropriation of those songs was shrewd payback and musical triumph. George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity” was sad as music gets, she rocked Ringo’s “It Don’t Come Easy” harder than Ringo ever did, and the Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me” soared. She also revived songs from the unreleased 1972 album she said was “up from the crypt” of show-biz neglect, and songs by women writers from her 2005 comeback “I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise,” including the title track at the end as her band left her alone onstage for the slow, big a cappella declaration “I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got.”

LaVette seemed determined to have everything her talent should have earned her decades ago, but also to earn it. Trim and energetic, she worked every lyric, including John Prine’s “Souvenirs,” sung seated after running out of breath dancing in “You Don’t Know Me At All.” Her voice cracked in all the right places, whispered when she invited us into the ballads and wowed when she lifted it, or it lifted her.

Her band worked the songs, too; Alan Hill running things from his keyboards, Bret Lucas contributing tremendous guitar accompaniment and solos as bassist Patrick Prouty and drummer Darryl Pierce laid the foundation.

Les McCann seemed ancient when wheeled to the keyboard but soon proved a full partner in saxophonist Javon Jackson’s opening set. His “Sock it to me!” yell in the climactic “Compared to What” confirmed the band’s 1970s vibe, and McCann milked the tune with clap- and sing-alongs. “Cold Duck Time” described, McCann said, a low-class wine in a “Watermelon Man”-like groove that perfectly time-capsuled his earthy riff-based approach. Jackson (who played Coltrane’s parts in the Kind of Blue tribute at The Egg earlier this year) and his band happily worked at the funk-soul-jump-blues-jazz junction of McCann’s heyday, guitarist David Gilmore hitting the hottest solos, second to Jackson himself.

The band was crisp and tight, Gilmore and Jackson often echoing in their own solos the concluding riffs in the other’s forays. The set peaked with the Jackson-composed all-in knockout “In the Sticks” — a joyful noise that climaxed with drummer McClenty Hunter playing a hot break punctuated by muscular, two-note bursts by everybody else — and the quietly fervent Jackson-McCann duet of “Amazing Grace” that was amazingly graceful.

Categories: Entertainment, News

Leave a Reply