A little gospel came to Melbourne last night courtesy of Mavis Staples, who has become a yearly fixture on the Blues Fest bill at Byron Bay. As soon as Mavis walks out on stage you can feel her enthusiasm and joy, she loves to perform and take her audience on a journey. The music of The Staple Singers was all about going on a journey, from the struggle of civil rights and social decay they were a voice for optimism and respect. She started the night with the 1973 hit If You're Ready (Come Go With Me) with that familiar reggae beat supplied by those legends at Muscle Shoals Sound. In the late 60's The Staples were starting to move more towards social commentary they did a great cover of Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth and Mavis sang it with great conviction, the past still resonating with the present in all too familiar ways. In 2013 Mavis recorded the album One True Vine with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy at his loft studio in Chicago, it was a brilliant album and one of the standout tracks was I Like The Things about Me, it's a great tune about self respect and self confidence and her performance of it was uplifting.
Mavis interspersed the old with new, Respect Yourself had that distinctive funky drive and that stand and deliver tone. Can You Get To That was another from her solo album, whilst she gave a touching rendition of the title track from her 2010 album You're Not Alone. She then dipped back into the Staples bag for the classic Freedom Highway a song written by Pops Staples in 1963 when they took part in the march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama. After just over an hour on stage Mavis finished the night off with two more classic Staples tunes, Let's Do It Again written and produced by Curtis Mayfield and the classic I'll Take You There which had the audience answering Mavis in a call and response. Mavis was backed by a great band, two backing vocalists and a three piece unit that kept things tight. It was a great show and Mavis packed a lot in during her time on stage, she definitely left the crowd wanting more.