Given her legendary status, Rita Coolidge could have played it safe and played the hits during her South By Southwest performance Friday night (March 16) at Cooper’s BBQ. But after opening with “Late Again,” The 72-year-old singer announced that she had other plans: “I’m doing a bunch from my new album, ‘cause that’s why we’re here.”
The album in question is Safe In The Arms Of Time, due out May 4 on Blue Elan Records, which hosted the showcase. It’s her first release of original material in 13 years, and Coolidge, who co-wrote three of its 12 tracks, clearly relished the opportunity to play a selection of them during her 45-minute set at Cooper’s. Austin guitarist David Grissom, who also played on the album and co-wrote one of its songs, “Satisfied,” sat in for the whole performance, and Chelsea Williams, Coolidge’s labelmate, joined her for “Rainbow” and “Naked All Night.”
Coolidge, sporting pink cowboy boots and sounding strong despite a recent bout of the flu, also delivered the Keb’ Mo’ collaboration “Walking On Water” and previewed the Graham Nash/Russell Kunkel-penned “Doing Fine Without You.” She didn’t ignore her past, however, tucking into Boz Scaggs’ “We’re All Alone” and a Motown mash-up of the Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” before closing with her hit arrangement of Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.”
Coolidge’s spirits, meanwhile, had been buoyed by a pedicab ride over to Cooper’s, where she happily chatted with fans both before and after her set, several of whom proffered vinyl copies of her old albums for autographs.