Lulu greets a fan following her show at B.B. King's (Photo: Russ Titelman)
She said she'd be turning 70 next year, but from B.B. King's back bar, at least, Lulu didn't look a day over 15 when she came on stage last week (May 30) and jumped right into "Shout," her 1964 cover of the Isley Brothers classic. Indeed, she was 15 when she recorded it, and she surely retained the energy and exuberance of a teenager in a set that took her backwards and forwards in covering an extraordinary and enduring career.
Her hits were well-represented, what with her 1967 cover of Neil Diamond's "The Boat That I Row," 1981's "I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)" and the 1969 power ballad "Oh Me Oh My (I'm a Fool for You Baby)." She sang Tina Turner's 1993 Top 10 hit "I Don't Wanna Fight," which she co-wrote with her brother Billy Lawrie and Steve DuBerry, and David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World," which she took to No. 3 in the U.K. in 1974 after he co-produced it (with Mick Ronson) and played sax and backed her up vocally.
As she noted, she always made it a point to find top songs and musicians (her young band of two guitarists, bassist, drummer and keyboardist bore this out), and she found a major one in her former husband, the late Maurice Gibb. The marriage, she said, was a "master class [in songwriting] every day," and she tributed him with a Bee Gees' medley of "Run to Me," "To Love Somebody" and "I've Gotta Get a Message to You."
Honoring her idol Ray Charles, she gave her all to his "Unchain My Heart," and dedicated her 1974 James Bond theme from The Man with the Golden Gun to the late Roger Moore. But her big film song, of course, was the theme to To Sir, With Love, her 1967 smash that held down No. 1 for six weeks and was the year's best-selling single.
She saved "To Sir, With Love" for last, and had a good portion of the audience holding up their phones to film it before rising to their feet at the big end.
"It's not about the costume changes or the razzamatazz," said Lulu, looking ever the adorable pixie in a black fedora. "It's about the music."
And so it was at B.B. King's, where she also noted that she'd never properly played America until now and hoped to return again soon for more gigs, when she'd be 70, going on 15.