concert reviews

Bettye LaVette at the State Theatre, Falls Church, VA, Thursday 1 December 2005

"I am a very fortunate old woman," declared soul singer Bettye LaVette at the State Theatre on Thursday night. "While the rumors of my demise have been circulating, I am back!" Indeed, LaVette showed no indication of her long absence from touring: Her animated performance belied her nearly 60 years of age as she strutted, gyrated and sashayed back and forth across the stage.

LaVette didn't always stay so active: A cover of Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow" displayed her superb vocal control as she balanced ardent howls with moments of delicate restraint. She even dropped to sit cross-legged to croon the mellow "Just Say So." But most often, LaVette's singing style was dramatic.

Her throaty voice at times overpowered her understated band: An overly soulful interpretation of Fiona Apple's "Sleep to Dream" steamrolled over many of the subtle melodies of the original. But LaVette found her most powerful moment when she stood alone. She closed the show with an a cappella version of Sinead O'Connor's "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got," delivering as much emotion in the pauses as in her pitch-perfect, expressive vocals.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 3 December 2005; Page C04
.: Selected discography: I've Got My Own Hell to Raise (Bettye LaVette, 2005); A Woman Like Me (Bettye LaVette, 2003); Let Me Down Easy: In Concert (Bettye LaVette, 2000).