By Brian Scott Lipton
The thrill of seeing a legendary singer such as Rita Coolidge just a few feet away from one’s seat might have brought out some people to the Iridium on July 10, but the real thrill was the show itself. At 74, Coolidge not only remains physically stunning, but soulfulness and earthiness seem to exude from every pore of her body. She’s delightfully candid, down-to-earth (despite the tons of famous names she casually dropped through her 90-minute set) and thoroughly relatable. And, oh yeah, her pipes are remarkably strong and solid, allowing the decades to melt away as she sings, bringing some of us back to happier times.
Her eclectic, well-considered set covered all the right bases. As expected, Coolidge gave the crowd what they really wanted: a handful of her still-beloved pop hits including a rousing version of “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher,” an incredibly emotional “We’re All Alone,” and a truly amazing, heart-wrenching take on the gorgeous “Superstar,” which she first performed in the early 1970s (and which, as she revealed in her memoir, “The Delta Lady,” she actually co-wrote with Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett.)
She also gave her all to a number of first-rate tunes, including two from her “favorite ex-husband,” the great Kris Kristofferson, the poignant “Late Again (Getting’ Over You)” and “Who’s to Bless and Who’s to Blame.” She also scored big with Allen Toussaint’s joyous “Shoo-Rah, Shoo-Rah”, the sultry “Fever” (a smash for Peggy Lee), the infectious “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” (a hit for both Marvin Gaye and James Taylor); the crowd-pleasing “The Way You Do the Things You Do” (co-written by Smokey Robinson and made famous by The Temptations); and the roof-raising “Born Under a Bad Sign”(first recorded in 1967 by blues great Albert King)!
But in some ways, Coolidge seemed happiest while performing selections from her 2018 album “Safe in the Arms of Time,” two of which she co-wrote: the joyful “Naked All Night,” which is a tribute to her very recent marriage to her former college sweetheart, Joe Hutto, and “Walking On Water,” a collaboration with the great Keb Mo. Conversely, she brought real depth to “Van Gogh,” which paints a portrait of an artist in pain, and she appeared completely in her element on some of the CD’s more country-and-blues selections, such as “Satisfied’ (co-written by Grammy winner Chris Stapleton) and “Doing Fine Without You” (co-written by former flame Graham Nash).
Joined by her extraordinary four-piece band, she concluded the evening with the delicious “Lover Please,” which earned her and Kristofferson a Grammy Award way back in 1974. To paraphrase its lyrics: “Rita please, please come back… don’t leave us in misery.”
Photos Courtesy of ScoBar Entertainment
Rita Coolidge performs through July 11 at the Iridium (1650 Broadway). For tickets and information, check out www.iridiumjazzclub.com