In concert: Bettye LaVette at Atlas Theater


Veteran soul singer Bettye LaVette is still on the comeback trail. (All photos by Marlon Correa/TWP)

It’s true that LaVette was not well known for many of the years since 1962, when she had her first hit — and made her D.C. debut at the Howard Theater. But her comeback hasn’t faltered since 2005’s “I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise,” which featured the work of contemporary female songwriters. That album and 2010’s “Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook” provided most of the concert’s material. LaVette’s approach was to mostly belt but occasionally coo, slipping around the tunes much the way she slinked playfully about the stage. The more recognizable melodic motifs were ceded to either guitar or backup vocals.


If the frequent references to strong drink seemed a little old-fashioned, this was essentially a cabaret performance, albeit one backed by a blues-rock band. Dressed in a sleeveless black jumpsuit, and punctuating the music with both physical and verbal humor, the singer seemed ready to settle in for a long run at some swank casino hotel. LaVette’s frustrating career has turned into a fabulous act.

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