It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon and a group of about 50 people were already gathered in the sweltering 95-degree heat to save wooden benches in order to be up close at Cyndi Lauper’s free 8 p.m. concert in Rye Playland last Thursday.
Two hours later, after two arguments among attendees over seating (which the police on hand effectively interrupted) my friends and I were sticking to the completely filled benches, while most of the green was covered with people, blankets and chairs.
The crowd was surprisingly diverse – a mixture of 8-year-old children and their parents, teenagers, 20-somethings, men and women in their 30s and 40s, and a handful of seniors.
Some audience members were decked out in ‘80s punk clothing – head bands, colorfully dyed hair, off the shoulder shirts, huge hoop earrings, and leg warmers
With a setting sun, the crowd was revved and rearing to sing “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” as show time approached. Gloomy late arrivers were forced to stand to the sides of the stage in huge crowds, since all the good spots were taken hours before. The main aisle was crammed in with people shouting “Cyndi! Cyndi!” The concert’s sponsor, radio station’s WPLJ couldn’t even hold the crowd’s attention with a T-shirt giveaway. Nope their cheers said it all, they wanted Cyndi.
Finally the moment arrived and the Stamford and New York City resident, Lauper and her six-person band came out on the stage to mass applause.
A fit looking Lauper had her short blond hair slicked back, her lips painted bright red, and was wearing a shiny black sleeveless body suit with a black skirt.
Lauper, who turned 50 in June and is the mother of a 6- year-old son, defied the aging gods with an incredibly energetic performance. During her two-hour nonstop performance, she jumped around the stage, held notes for long periods of time, banged her head, joined the audience out in the bleachers, and yelled to the people way in the back and to the side – all to the delight of the audience. The people around me kept shaking their heads over her endless amounts of energy, while going crazy with applause and screams at the same time.
During the performance her actions and expressions were very animated and theatrical, keeping audiences eyes on her constantly just to see what she would do next. She kept dramatically leaning against the big speakers on the sides of the stage with her eyes closed and her arms up over her head.
In between songs, she told amusing stories about herself and how she used to have pictures of The Beatles and Davy Jones on her bedroom wall. She also managed to bring tears to audiences’ eyes, as she sang emotionally to “True Colors,” and told about how she wrote the song for her male friend who died of AIDS in 1985.
Starting her set off with songs from her later album “Sisters From Avalon,” and her yet unreleased “Shine” album, her music varied from having a jungle beat to pop songs that had a country music style to them. She also sang a slower rendition of Burt Bacharach’s “Walk on By” that was a hit for Dionne Warwick.
Lauper is best remembered for her 1983 super hit, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” from her first solo album “She’s So Unusual,” which sold more than 4.5 million copies in the United States alone. The album was the first time a female artist scored four Top Five singles in a debut album, which included “Time After Time,” “She Bop” and “All Through The Night.” Lauper didn’t disappoint audiences and played all of her big hits, and ending with “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
After the concert, in a new outfit and with a little less energy, Lauper signed a few autographs and waved to those who stuck around shortly before the park closed.
I was able to briefly meet her and she was very nice to me and to everyone else that approached her. She commented that it was ‘crazy out there’ and that there were a few technical problems, but we assured her that we hadn’t noticed.
Over the years, Lauper has produced nine albums and has continued to write music for herself and other artists. In addition to her musical career, Lauper acted in several movies including “The Goonies,” “Off and Running” and “The Opportunists.” In 1995, she won an Emmy award for her guest appearances on the TV show, “Mad About You.”
On Sept. 3, she will be playing at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT with singer Meat Loaf.