Icon of the Civil Rights movement, Mavis Staples, is now 74 years old and when her voice and person emanate from the stage you feel that she has just hit her prime.
What an entertainer!
When she says, “I’ll take you there”, you KNOW she will.
When she sings, “Hey what’s that sound” you DO look to see what’s going down.
But when she sings that she likes the things about herself that she once despised you get confused—what could that be?
With stellar backup singers, including one of her sisters from the Staples Singers family, and a drum, bass and electric guitar that are stars in their own right, Mavis’ performance hits every note exactly right.
For those of us who came up in a world where optimism was defined by the Civil Rights Movement’s accomplishments, when she sings “March on Freedom’s Highway” or “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” nostalgia waxes heavy.
She described herself as Professor Mavis, a soldier of love. She sings from that heavenly place where Gospel meets R&B.
With a cane helping a recently replaced knee, she may have been in great pain to perform but this is a supposition, not in any way apparent.
Perhaps this was such a superb performance in part because Mavis seems absolutely at home on the City Winery stage. After all, City Winery did name a Zinfandel for her.
Above and beyond that, City Winery offers a relatively intimate music venue where large personalities like Mavis can be felt across all sides of the room.
The Deadly Gentlemen warm up act were pretty darn good too—introducing us to “banjo rap” and very well blended harmonies in each of their songs.
If you want to go to hear live music to feel good you can do no better than to check out Mavis’ website (http://mavisstaples.com/ ) for upcoming concerts. She seems to be a regular at City Winery, along with other legacy all-stars mixed in with newer talents.
For upcoming City Winery events see their schedule pages on the City Winery Website.
155 Varick Street
New York, NY 10013
212 608 0555
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Photos: Peter Kachergis unless otherwise indicated