At first glance, the guest stars that joined Cyndi Lauper for her Trump Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino concert would surprise many. Shaggy? Ani DiFranco? The Hooters? Pat Monahan? Scott Weiland?!
But those following the singer’s career know that she long ago left behind the flaming hair, flamboyant secondhand shop wardrobe and bouncy pop that made her famous. Today’s Lauper is a seasoned performer who knows her way around a genre or two, so her choice of partners and songs is quite sound. Her hits were spruced up with new arrangements that allowed them to better stand alongside the more current songs from her guests’ repertoire (“She Bop,” for example, was a swinging country rock stroll, which was a better fit than the original production). And since her partners were personal friends, the duets didn’t come off as contrived.
Shaggy joined Lauper for “All Through the Night” and his own tune, “Repent.” On the former, her voice had too much vibrato, which didn’t complement the broad whine with which she sung the chorus. Lauper was in more control on the latter, pumping the Latin rhythm by belting out gospel licks as if doom were nigh. It warmed her up to nail the soaring notes for her killer cover of Roy Orbison’s “I Drove All Night.”
Her accompaniment with Train’s Monahan for “Drops of Jupiter” was solid, but the song was better for Monahan since it’s meant to be sung in a lower register. Still, the whole room was on its feet for “Jupiter” and the snappy “Shine,” where Lauper scaled the top of her range.
The Hooters’ Rob Hyman (playing accordion) and Eric Bazilian (hurdy gurdy) sat in for “Shine” and “The Other Side of Here” before DiFranco took the stage. It was a rare moment to see the modern folkster surrounded by such a large-scale production, including multiple video screens and a full band. She joined Lauper for the revivalist “Sisters of Avalon” and a booming, uptempo rendition of her own hit “32 Flavors,” two songs that the females in the audience loudly cheered.
Lauper and Weiland were a frisky pair for his song “Barbarella,” leaning back to back as he crooned the rock ballad like David Bowie. Weiland then channeled Mick Jagger’s strutting and posturing for “Money Changes Everything,” which found the petite Lauper lying on the floor with the lanky singer standing over her, both of them bellowing the lyrics in a frenzy.
The Atlantic City, N.J., event was filmed for VH1 Classic’s new series “Decades Rock Live,” so retakes, squawls of feedback and rotating musicians were part of the show. The pauses between numbers sometimes made the energy lag, with Lauper sweetly apologizing in her thick Brooklyn accent for the interruptions that accompany TV tapings.
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” the obvious finale, was rearranged as a cross between a campy Vegas show tune and a mariachi band showcase. It was a fun way to pump up the crowd one last time, but purists would have preferred the original. Shaggy rejoined Lauper to add additional reggae zest and carry her around on his back as she sang, showing that even in her 50s, the gal does indeed still wanna have fun.