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Lollapalooza Spotlight: Mavis Staples

Richard Manuel and Rick Danko -- name-checked along with the other members of The Band by Mavis Staples after her transcendant rendition of ''The Weight'' Friday at Lollapalooza -- are gone now.

So too are so many others who have influenced Staples, from her dad, Staples Singers patriarch Pops Staples, to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But a few weeks past her 71st birthday, she demonstrated she is very much still with us and going strong with a set that was equal parts tent revival, history lesson and roadhouse jam.

The setlist drew from her forthcoming album – "You Are Not Alone" -- due Sept. 14 and produced by fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy. Not afraid to play the hometown card, Staples called out Tweedy to play on several songs, including John Fogerty's "Wrote A Song For Everyone," and he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, strumming an acoustic and providing backup vocals while Staples commanded the spotlight.

She shifted easily from the spiritual "Creep Along Moses" to the civil rights anthem "Freedom Highway," which was inspired, as she noted afterward, by the march on Selma. "I'm still on that highway, y'all," Staples said. "I'm still on that highway and I will be till Dr. King's dream is realized."

And she'll still be singing the Staples' classic, "I'll Take You There," an extended take of which closed out Friday's show. But while some bands now deliver rote versions of their hits -- Do we want to hear another version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by the Stones? -- Staples and her band have a knack for making the old songs sound fresh and the new ones sound familiar.

"You ain't seen the last of me yet," Staples promised as her set wound down. "I'll be back."

For now, she'll head off on another leg of her journey down the backroads of American music. It's worth tagging along on that ride, especially with such an engaging travel companion.


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This page contains a single entry by Mike Clark published on August 6, 2010 3:37 PM.

Lollapalooza Spotlight: Raphael Saadiq was the previous entry in this blog.

Lollapalooza Spotlight: J. Cole is the next entry in this blog.

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