BWW Review: LYNDA CARTER, THIS LIFE, MY MUSIC, MY STORY At Jazz At Lincoln Center
Lynda Carter is a performer whose work has defined a generation.
And before she even steps foot on stage for her concert Lynda Carter, THIS LIFE: MY MUSIC, MY STORY, a video collage summarizes the timeless beauty's multifaceted career. There is Lynda Carter, the face of cosmetics. Lynda Carter, the Pageant Queen. Lynda Carter, the recording artist, stage star and activist. There is Lynda Carter, the gay icon. Lynda Carter the wife and mother; and natch, Lynda Carter, the television superstar who continues to adorn t-shirts and lunch boxes as Wonder Woman.
Who Lynda Carter is, as we will find out over the course of the evening, is all of these things. She is also an enduring entertainer.
A child of the 1950s, raised in the 1960s, and a star of the 1970s, Carter came of age when the changing face of American aesthetics and ideals was quickly evolving from familial tradition to outspoken rebellion to oversized glamour.
Culturally, it could even be said that the precisely perfect moment those movements came together was in 1975 when both Wonder Woman and her alter ego Diana Prince (as well as the actress who played them) first hit the airwaves on network television. Such was the impact that it had we might forget, forty years later, that WONDER WOMAN (the TV show) ran for only three seasons and, in truth, that the majority of Lynda Carter's pop culture "Q" factor comes from her countless appearances as a guest on television variety shows, and from her own iconic TV specials (usually clad in some combination of sequins and feathers). This was, after all, the era when being beautiful and on television mandated that you release a solo album (you can find Lynda Carter's record PORTRAIT on my shelf next to Cheryl Ladd's DANCE FOREVER, Cybil Shepherd's MAD ABOUT THE BOY, Susan Anton's FOXY, and Sissy Spacek's HANGIN' UP MY HEART).
So while Lynda Carter is a performer whose work has defined a generation, in some ways it could also be said, that generation has defined her.
Now 68, and clearly having the time of her life on the Jazz at Lincoln Center stage, Lynda Carter - through song, story, and strut - is somehow able to recapitulate the spirit of glamour, rebellion and familial tradition into that other burnished and beautiful thing we call nostalgia.
Backed by her top shelf "All-Star" band of Nashville luminaries, and with her talented doppelganger daughter, Jessica Carter Altman, by her side, Carter spins a 90 minute set of country, blues, and rock-tinged favorites; among them "Great Balls of Fire," "Philadelphia Freedom," "Let the Good Times Roll" and Kenny Loggins' playful, "I'm Alright." The voice, while never singular, is perhaps better than you might remember. Occasionally drowned out by the pure wattage of the instruments (and back up singers) behind her, Carter nonetheless shines with a clear vocal sweetness on songs like James Taylor's "Secret O'Life," and the yearning "Toto" - a minor hit from her 1978 album Portrait, and reveals a husky wail-like power on the rock anthem "I Will Stay With You Baby." Most surprisingly, with two pieces written for (of all things) a torch singing character named Magnolia in the video game FALLOUT 4, Carter hits it out of the park with a voice capable of chameleon-like versatility.
Looking relaxed and comfortable (and like a million bucks) decked out in tight leggings, a black sequined tunic, and silver sequined keds, Carter, perhaps most importantly, seems to understand that nostalgia (as we are defining it here) is also the ability for audience and performer (fans and star) to connect. If her eyes drop down to a center stage teleprompter a bit more often than I suspect Carter really needs, she is diligent about making her concert a moment by moment opportunity for a relationship with a devoted audience clearly hungry for the brand of nostalgia she represents.
Wistfully remembering her childhood in Phoenix and the Drifter's classic "Up on the Roof" (which young Lynda related to sitting on the roof at the Drive-in Movies) Carter has her audience right there with her. Who doesn't remember the joy of wishing and hoping and looking up at the stars for shimmery and sweet inspiration? Here, with Lynda Carter, that magic is reborn for a moment, and the past and the present are right where we always hoped it would be, and just where it belongs - in the palm of your hand.
Lynda Carter: THIS LIFE: MY MUSIC, MY STORY
With Her All-Star Band (Paul Leim, Drums, Leader), Glen Caruba (Percussion), Pat Coil (Piano), Shane Keister (Keyboard), Sam Levine (Saxes / Flute / Clarinet), Kerry Marx (Guitar), Denny O'Lannerghty (Bass), Tania Hancheroff, Cindy Richardson-Walker, Kira Small (Backup Vocalists).
Special Guest: Jessica Carter Altman