Singer Bettye LaVette’s legendary status has been cemented by the fact that she is holding a residency at the Café Carlyle. And on January 29th, the second night, the lucky audience, including friends and family, had the opportunity to celebrate not just the release of LaVette’s latest album Worthy earlier in the week, but also to mark her 69th birthday with a toast.
The illustrious soul singer has spent over 50 years as a recording artist but never seemed to find an audience as vast as her talents. She often performs songs written by other artists, but breathes her own unique spirit into each. And she is performing the entirety of her new album at the Café, with pianist Alan Hill, drummer Darryl Pierce, guitarist Brett Lucas and bassist James Simonson backing her, before including a few requests from the audience.
LaVette’s shoulders can bear the weight of a ton of grief, but the pain doesn’t appear to have left any chips. The standout of the evening has to be Randall Bramblett’s “Where a Life Goes”, a touching song that resonated with LaVette as she thought its lyrics might be something she could say to her late sister, one she used to do everything with.
Towards the end of her main set, LaVette shimmied her way through the crowd to her green room. But it isn’t a hurried retreat, as she serenated audience members along the way. Her return to the stage marked a time for audience requests, and many deep cuts were tossed her way. The conclusion was a fantastic version of The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me”, the powerful song she also had performed at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors.
LaVette recognized that this wasn’t a comeback. She has always been around. She was just commanding a lot less per ticket. Her shows at the Café Carlyle allow for an intimate connection with LaVette as they are a showcase for the worthy stories and the vital songs from a genuine artist.
Bettye LaVette 1/29/15 Main Setlist (Worthy in its entirety):
Unbelieveable (Bob Dylan)
When I was a Young Girl (Chris Youlden)
Bless us All (Mickey Newbury)
Stop (Joseph Lee Henry)
Undamned (Linford Detweiler)
Complicated (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)
Where a Life Goes (Randall Bramblett)
Just Between You and Me and The Wall You’re a Foolwritten (James H. Brown, Jr.)
Wait (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)
Step Away *Christine Santelli/Brian Mitchell)
Worthy (Beth Nielsen Chapman/Mary Gauthier)
[Encore / by request]
Souvenirs (John Prine)
Streets of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen)
Love Reign O’er Me (Pete Townsend)