If you’re going to do an encore, make sure you do it like Ms. LaVette. After your penultimate song, have a security guard bring out a long, black sweater and drape it over your arms. As the audience whoops and applauds, have him steady you offstage a la Danny Ray to your James Brown while the garment unfolds like a superhero’s cape. Let the band play on grinning as they watch you leave knowing they’ve just participated in the best performance of their lives. Let the crowd keep wondering if you’re ever coming back. As the murmur accelerates, slowly return to the stage right stool. Sigh as you sit like you’re resigned to confessing. It’s a difficult conversation, but you’ve had it before. The music will help. When the people repair to their seats you begin.
You call on the strength of Mary Gauthier, Beth Nielsen Chapman and, through the conduit of their song, admit that you…
Left stumbling in the dark,
I had to go within.
So I traded my scars
Back to where I been.
A diamond in the dirt,
Down beneath the hurt,
It’s been so hard to feel.
What a thing to claim!
Ashes into flame.
Am I worthy?
Lyrics from “Worthy” by Mary Gauthier, 2014.
First interpreted by Bettye LaVette in 2015.
Photos by Rick Stachura. Ms. LaVette at Sony Hall. September 21, 2018.
(1) LaVette and Darryl Pierce (drums) enjoying a moment.
(2) LaVette, Pierce (drums), James Simonson (bass), and Brett Lucas (guitar) counting off the beat.
(3) LaVette in media res.