SHOW REVIEW: Mavis Staples in Boulder (6/25/2014)


Mavis Staples at Chautauqua Auditorium, Boulder

Standing just feet from Mavis Staples as she swaggered through Buffalo Springfield’s classic “For What It’s Worth” last night at Boulder’s historic Chautauqua Auditorium, it was obvious – even as she approaches 75 years old – why Bob Dylan famously asked Staples’ father for her hand in marriage so many years ago.

She’s got moxie; she’s got blues; she’s got style; she’s got class; and she’s got taste. That was clear when Staples and her band – three backup singers, including her sister; drums, bass and guitar – launched into a confident, badass version of the Talking Heads’ “Slippery People.” Even Stop Making Sense, one of the great concert films of all time, could’ve used Mavis Staples.

“We bring you greetings from the Windy City…but I can breathe much easier in Chicago,” Staples (who, with the Staples Singers, was once considered the musical voice of the Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr.) admitted at one point. “We come to bring you joy, happiness, inspiration and positive vibrations…enough to last you maybe six months.”

Mixing in other classics (like a spot-on “The Weight” and Staples’ signature “I’ll Take You There”), gospel-tinged tunes, freedom rallies and lonesome-yet-hopeful ballads like “You’re Not Alone,” Staples and her band succeeded even where nearly everyone fails: They got the stilted, virtually all-white Boulder crowd to seem even a smidgen like an old-time revival, hollering “positive vibrations” right back.

“We love you, Mavis!” someone shouted between songs.

“I love you more!” the legend responded.

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