Girls just want to have fun, Cyndi Lauper has been persuading us for decades. And some guys have all the luck, Rod Stewart has been pointing out since 1984.
About 10,000 people had the luck Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul of witnessing Lauper generate a lot of fun and Stewart, well, coasting and perhaps wondering why the Twin Cities interrupted his holiday for a concert.
It’s because he had strep throat in August so he postponed shows set for St. Paul and Kansas City.
He assured Sunday’s audience that he’d had six weeks of rest and promised to give an extra-long concert to compensate for the inconvenience this summer.
Guess what? Stewart played the same 1¾-hour, 18-song set he’s done at most cities on this joint tour with Lauper. The one difference was Lauper did not join him for a duet, something that has been a regular feature on the trek.
Let’s applaud Lauper for her spirited, sometimes emotional hourlong performance that was a triumph of both music and personality. Wearing a multi-colored sequined pantsuit, plain black shoes and what resembled a Phyllis Diller fright wig, the kooky, cartoonish New Yorker celebrated all causes Cyndi Lauper. That would be her love of pro wrestling, her persistence in her career, her Broadway triumph (as composer of “Kinky Boots”) and, most importantly, women’s rights, gay rights and the obligation to vote in next month’s elections.
Her messages were powerful and provocative, as she showed photos of participants in the 2018 Women’s March on Washington carrying signs emblazoned with “girls just want to have fun-damental rights” while she and her band delivered “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” with vitality and purpose.
Lauper, 65, made sure that everyone at the X had fun by cruising through the crowd while singing during three different numbers. She got serious telling a story about an uncle who was laid off from a job in New York’s financial world and how it ruined his family. She used that tale to illustrate the urgency for all people to vote, no matter who for.
Lauper got most emotional when she wanted to recognize an unnamed pal. “I know we’re not in Minneapolis, but I want to do a song for an old friend of mine who I miss a lot,” Lauper announced, sobbing. She then broke into Prince’s “When You Were Mine,” which she’d recorded on her 1983 debut album. She was a cauldron of feelings, especially since she was accompanied by the guitar riffs of Kat Dyson, who used to play in Prince’s NPG. Without pause, Lauper segued into a fiercely rocking “Money Changes Everything.”
Like Lauper, Stewart, 73, still has the ingredients that made him famous: the rooster hairdo, those loud outfits and that unmistakably raspy voice. What he didn’t have Sunday was the passion that has made him one of the more enduringly loved figures in rock ‘n’ roll.
Backed by a top-notch band, Stewart breezed through a slick, Vegas-y greatest-hits show that was missing too many of his best gems, including “Every Picture Tells a Story,” “Reason to Believe” and “You Wear It Well.” He didn’t sing with much force, and he let the crowd carry the choruses to several hits, most notably the high part on 1976’s “Tonight’s the Night.”
His biggest misstep was including a video clip of him being knighted in 2016 by Prince William along with footage and headlines of World War II warriors while he crooned 1991’s “Rhythm of My Heart.” What war did Sir Rod serve in? The British Invasion?
The rocker also fumbled when a fan tossed a Fran Tarkenton Vikings jersey onstage. “He’s a fullback, right?” Stewart proclaimed, referring to a position common to football and soccer. He later corrected himself, properly identifying Tark as a quarterback.
Maybe the biggest disappointment was that the most vibrant selection in Stewart’s segment — Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits” — was rendered by his backup singers while he was offstage changing into another garish outfit and new designer soccer shoes.
All was not lost, however. The rocker was at his best vocally on a four-song, sit-down acoustic set, peaking on “Grace,” one of three selections from his brand new album performed on Sunday.
Buoyed by accordion and two fiddles, the Rock Hall of Famer poured himself into this 1985 folk ballad about a captured Irish rebel in the Easter Rising of 1916 who was allowed to marry his sweetheart in jail and then was executed the next day. Stewart filled the song with heart, soul and sadness. It was an amazing “Grace.”