THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Mavis Staples At The Greek

I'll take you there!


She doesn't tweet. I doubt many people under forty have any idea who she is. But last night, Mavis Staples positively killed at the Greek. She evidenced all the elements that made music the preferred art form of the baby boomers, a religion. It was all about sound, it had nothing to do with the trappings. If you'd never heard her or her music, you'd instantly be sold. Because of the energy, the passion, the performance!


Mavis was opening for Bonnie Raitt. Who came out and wailed on a number. You see Bonnie has a long history of heralding the unsung and forgotten, whether it be Sippie Wallace or Mose Allison, she never forgets, so neither do you.


Promoters told Bonnie she had to play 1500 seaters. That the audience had moved on and forgotten her in her absence. Bonnie responded that she hadn't played halls that small since her twenties. Maybe the promoters are so inured to the new world, here today, gone tomorrow, that they've forgotten about the legends, who have an audience, a loyal audience. Who'll buy the new music and listen to it live. Yes, last night's gig was sold out and dominated by tunes from Bonnie's most recent album, "Slipstream." It was like the seventies, except we were all so much older, but we still remembered…when going to the show wasn't entertainment, but life itself.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

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In addition to the new album, Bonnie did a killer take of "Have A Heart" and a slowed-down, burning "Angel From Montgomery," but the highlight of her set was "Love Me Like A Man." Were you there, back then, in '72, for her second best album, "Give It Up"? (The best is "Luck Of The Draw"…how many people do you know who do their best work twenty years on?) It's a Chris Smither original. And when Bonnie sings it you don't hear a victim, a complainer, but a modern woman who can truly fend for herself. Hell, Bonnie referenced so many failed relationships, stating that she's now got a good man. But when she's wailing on the slide, slipping out the lyrics, it's a wild blend of estrogen and testosterone, no wonder both sexes are drawn to her, she's the antithesis of everything being sold today, there's no flash, it all comes down to the music. It takes a lifetime to earn an audience, but if you've got one, they'll follow you anywhere, they'll support you, they truly love you.

And the venue was more than half-full when Mavis took the stage. Boomers remember when the opening act counted, they're always open to having their horizons expanded. And there's three backup singers, how can she pay for this? And there are only three backup musicians, but boy could they wail. The septet fell instantly into a groove and never bounced out. Mavis is a bundle of energy and honesty. Shouting/singing, shocking you to life. You could not help but stand up, clap, move your body. It was a religious experience.


And everybody was so skilled. The tall guy who looked like he bagged groceries when he wasn't on the road soloed with a voice better than most on the hit parade. And the guitarist squeezed out the notes, made a glorious sound. And Mavis led it all with more energy than those sixty years younger.


I guess what I'm saying is I'm jaded. I've been to the show. I know the economics. All the soul's been removed. A single gig is not as important as the number of Twitter followers you've got, what beer you're endorsing. Sure, little kiddies almost faint when they see their favorites, but the music just does not penetrate. Because, when done right, music will lift you right out of your seat, eradicate all your troubles, make you feel fully alive.


We live in a money economy. If you're not part of the 1%, you're either a loser or a striver on your way. Nobody's happy where they're at. Everyone feels inadequate. That's what all the boasting is about. Then you see Mavis Staples and her troupe and you've got that desire you felt evaporated, to jump up on stage and go on the road and sing and play music…that's more than enough!


Mavis stated that she was having FUN!


It's no fun working at the bank. Just do a little online research. The hours are long and boring.


If you're doing it for the money, half your life is a throwaway.


Mavis and her backup singers might not be rich, but they're having tons of fun and joy. And watching, you become infected.


Yes, they did "I'll Take You There." And I was waiting for it. But unlike with the stars du jour and the has-beens, it wasn't only about the hit, the rest of the songs were just as good.


Remember when you went to the gig and felt this was the only place you wanted to be, that music was the richest art form in the world, that if you could just hang with the musicians, your life would be complete? IT WAS LIKE THAT!

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