words & photos by Jacob Blickenstaff
Mavis Staples delivered a fiery, spiritual and deeply felt performance at the Bell House on Tuesday night in support of her 2010 album You Are Not Alone (ANTI, produced by Jeff Tweedy). Mrs. Staples, 71, was in full command of her unique vocal powers, sweeping up out of deep growls into sermonizing leads. The band, led by Rick Holmstrom on guitar, was a powerful and solid compliment, laying out gravel-rough rhythms and churchy chords. Mavis was supported by 3 additional vocalists, including her sister Yvonne, who provided both rich harmonies and counterpoints. In total, the ensemble put her in an setting reminiscent of the guitar and vocals-driven sound of the classic Staples Singers.
The show began with the acapella "Wonderful Saviour" and moved through much of the material on the new album, including both Tweedy-penned songs "You Are Not Alone" and "Only The Lord Knows". Mavis performed The Band's "The Weight", a song that the Staples can lay some claim to since The Last Waltz, plus the evergreen inspirational Stax hit "I'll Take You There".
Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio and Jolie Holland each played opening sets, Kip joined Jolie for her last song. Mavis Staples continues to tour throughout 2011. Tickets are on sale for the show she's playing with Billy Bragg in Tarrytown on March 27th. More pictures and a video from the Bell House, below...