Bettye LaVette | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Bettye LaVette

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Bettye LaVette first hit the soul charts in 1962 with the sassy "My Man--He's a Lovin' Man," which, at 16, she vamped through like Lolita. She struck again in 1965 with the smoldering "Let Me Down Easy," but despite a few subsequent hits and slots on major soul revues, she never attained real stardom. In 1978 her disco-style "Doin' the Best I Can" became one of the east coast's hottest club hits, selling a reported 100,000 copies in New York City alone; in 1982 she achieved moderate success with "Right in the Middle (Of Falling in Love)" on Motown. Now she primarily tours the UK and Europe, where old-school soul never went out of style--she recorded her last album, 2000's Let Me Down Easy (Munich), live in the Netherlands. LaVette still seduces, but her voice has deepened, and she transforms standard wronged-woman laments such as "Damn Your Eyes" and the evergreen title track into volcanic proclamations. Her voice quivers and lurches, and she punctuates her lines with sobs that unexpectedly ascend into desperate screams. The defiant power of her voice makes succumbing to doomed love sound like a heroic deed. At this year's Chicago Blues Festival she testified in the face of a 40-degree Lake Michigan wind, wearing only a skintight negligee. Here she'll bring that same intensity, stagecraft, and elan to a small neighborhood club. Friday, October 25, 9:30 PM, and Saturday, October 26, 10 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage; 773-342-0452.

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