‘In 1988 Fats Waller came back to me in a dream. He was sitting at a piano and said he he really liked what I did with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. He told me I should do the old songs and reinterpret them in my own way, like Joplin did in hers. It wasn’t until some 20 odd years later when Allen Toussaint played that descending line into Shattered Dreams that I was able to answer that dream.’
As To Memphis With Love opens, and Cyndi’s voice kicks in over a rehearsal scene of her in action with her band, filtered through a lens tinged with an ageing effect, it quickly becomes clear this is not another ‘live in concert’ DVD. It’s a recap of the writing process, of the finished product in the live arena, and the dream which originally lead Cyndi to release a blues recording. Fusing live footage, with anecdotes and discussions about the E flat key, it drifts into a journey which inevitably leads back to Cyndi’s own routes, with the old songs reworked with a blues style.
‘The sound of the earth spinning is in E flat’ she muses half way through, a notion which links the entire film together. Whether it’s the guest performance from Tracy Nelson, duetting with Cyndi on vocals for Down So Low, or the reminiscence of how her childhood influenced her passion for the blues, there’s something earthly and grounding about the film, as if somehow it confirms in a nutshell what pushed Cyndi to follow the path of music in the first place.
Taking nearly every song from the original album and showcasing them in the live arena, Cyndi works her way through the set capturing every movement which made the recent tour sparkle. Though the DVD never quite manages to capture the vocal power that she boasts lives, it counteracts this with more footage of the band in action, something easily missed on the tour. Yet at the same time it holds true to the Cyndi which captivates audiences; climbing on pianos, dancing along the stage and conducting her band with precision and ease.
In a nutshell, the DVD walks you in Cyndi’s shoes, from conception of an idea through to it’s actualisation on stage, ranging from the sensual Lead Me On to the more upbeat Don’t Cry No More and the timeless classics She Bop and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Combining thought and feeling and encapsulating it in music, it’s a DVD’s who’s sum becomes much greater than it’s parts.