Soul survivor

Betty Lavette still has what it takes to rock the house.

Keri Carlson

Tina Turner acts like a 20-year-old. She still bursts out on stage in short shimmy dresses and shakes it just as hard as she did when she performed on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” Deborah Harry has also shown that the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle doesn’t have to put you in a wheelchair by 50. Blondie’s reunion tours find Harry strutting around in her trademark sexy white dress as if still on the stage of CBGB in the 1970s.

At a time in culture in which old people are often ignored, especially women, Turner and Harry prove that women over 50 are still relevant and can rock just as hard as a decaying Mick Jagger.

Betty Lavette, 58, could certainly be added to this list. Lavette wrapped the entire crowd around her pinkie finger at the Dakota last Tuesday. Prancing out in a low necked, skinny-strapped black dress with high slit pants underneath and a spiky haircut, Lavette looked just as good as she does on her old album covers. On her first number she ran around the stage in a mad salsa dance with high kicks and screeching “ows!” The rest of the set was much tamer but on heart-twisting ballads Lavette showed how much emotion her voice can dig out of a song. Her deep husky cries made it sound as if she had been dumped 1,000 times.

While most of Lavette’s career was spent singing R&B and soul music, most notably for Atlantic Records, her set mostly consisted of blues like her album of last year, “A Woman Like Me.”

“I’ve officially been a blues singer for two years now,” Lavette said about the recent change in her more than 40-year music career.

Sadly, this means audiences don’t get to hear Lavette perform some of her old soul classics such as “Let Me Down Easy” or her top-10 R&B hit, “My Man – He’s a Loving Man.” With Turner and Harry you can always expect “Proud Mary” and “Heart of Glass” – and who wouldn’t want to see those songs live? But Lavette’s hit songs are mostly forgotten. There is market and club circuit for jazz and blues, but the market for soul is significantly smaller and practically reserved for Jazz Fest.

Although it’s sad, no tears can be shed when Lavette is this good. With a voice as moving as Lavette’s, it hardly matters what genre she sings in.