Cyndi Lauper

Live...At Last

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Recorded on tour to support At Last, her album of standards, (hence the DVD's title), this is also the first time the singer's live show has been officially available. Even though she has flown under the radar since her mid-'80s heyday releasing only three albums and an EP of original material from 1990 until this DVD's appearance in 2004, Lauper has stayed active and her vocal chops are as good, if not better than, ever. Captured on a single date -- although with some edits -- at New York City's Town Hall, Lauper runs through all her hits, a few substantially rearranged, along with six songs from the singer's most recent project. The tight five-piece combo is augmented with three horns and two percussionists for a few forays into Latin pop. It's an experiment that works on a cover of Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs' oldie "Stay," but nearly derails the set closing "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" in a messy arrangement that is barely salvaged by Lauper's frisky presence. Lauper remains in terrific spirits throughout, dancing around the stage, running into the audience, clowning with the band and generally having a ball. Some of her pre-song introductions range from charming to rambling and barely coherent as she tries to be chummy with the audience but isn't particularly articulate or comfortable with the process. The disc's subtext of paying tribute to her Queens, New York home is forced, sometimes uncomfortably, into the proceedings and is especially prevalent on the disc's extras. The music generally fares well, though, with the band comfortable on the sparse, haunting sound of standards such as "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "If You Go Away" along with the more full-bodied, some might say bombastic approach required on "Sisters of Avalon," "Drive All Night," "Shine" and "Change of Heart." Rearranging "She Bop" as a French waltz with accordion is cute but a waste of time, and the overlong intro and emotionally cloying fist raising mid-section of "True Colors" is way overdone. Lauper's voice is strong and pure as the opening "At Last" proves, so unlike most divas she doesn't need lip-synching to fix flubbed notes. The production is tasteful and relatively understated, with only the backdrop videos of New York City at night minimally distracting from the performance. The widescreen, high-definition presentation and 5.1 surround sound are particularly well done, making this a treat for all Lauper fans and a classy recap of her catalog for everyone else.

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