Live Review: Mavis Staples - Sydney Opera House (12.04.15)

A powerful figure in music since the 1950s, Mavis Staples is nothing short of awe inspiring. Delivering a number of upbeat, joyful numbers with her booming gospel vocals, Mavis put on a brilliant show on Sunday night at the Sydney Opera House. Exhibiting a strong pride in the contribution that her family has made to music and civil rights across the set, Mavis really is a musician worth experiencing.

Across the set, it became clear that Mavis is a strong advocate for self-empowerment and positivity – making for a truly vibrant and uplifting show. From older tracks such as “Respect Yourself”, released in 1971 by The Staple Singers, to “We’re Gonna Make It”, recorded in 2010 with Jeff Tweedy as the producer, it is clear that Mavis’ strength is in building up energy with her unyielding enthusiasm and positive lyrics. Indeed, it was certainly fun to hear Mavis sing the song that she first sang with The Staple Singers back in 1975 – the cheeky number “Let’s Do It Again” - yet another track that had the crowd clapping along.

Looking back at Mavis’ older tracks that largely feature an upbeat mix of gospel, soul and funk, it's incredible to experience the stunning new territory that Mavis crossed into with her last two albums (recorded with Jeff Tweedy). In a way quieter, more sensitive and perhaps a little darker, her latest release One True Vine well and truly shows that decades into her career Mavis Staples is still at the top of her game. I personally would have loved Mavis to have performed a few more tracks from this record – as the ones that she did play were superb. “Holy Ghost” stood as one of the sure highlights of the night; when Mavis sat down to deliver the stripped back gospel number, supported beautifully by her two backup singers. Sincere and introspective, “Holy Ghost” really is a beautiful song that was delivered in a spine-tingling performance.

Furthermore, with the new release of Pops Staples’ recordings only recently (another Mavis and Tweedy project), this does feel like the right time to be seeing Mavis Staples live. Indeed, another highlight of the night would have to have been her performance of Pops‘ track “March on Freedom Highway”, the track about the march on Selma to Montgomery Alabama in 1965.

A moving and truly exhilerating set, Mavis Staples and her band put on an incredible show – once again establishing that sixty years on Mavis is a stronger musician than ever.

Mavis Staples played alongside Angelique Kidjo at the Sydney Opera House. You can read about her performance HERE.