One of the best Bettye LaVette stories came out of the veteran soul singer's performance a couple years ago at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. In a nod to one of the year's honorees, the Who, LaVette delivered a show-stopping rendition of "Love Reign O'er Me."
After the song, Pete Townshend said later, "Barbra Streisand turned to ask me if I really wrote it."
Yes, LaVette, 64, has that kind of voice. And as she showed at that moment and again on this year's album Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook (out on Anti- Records), she has a nifty flair for honoring a song while making it entirely her own.
LaVette's unlikely re-emergence after a couple decades of roller-coaster fortunes in the record industry began with 2005's I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, a collection of material penned by female singer-songwriters. She went country for her next album of covers, Scene of the Crime, in 2007.
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But there's something especially emotive about the singer turning the British Invasion on its ear. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Traffic, Led Zeppelin and Elton John get her royal treatment, some of which is likely to be on display tonight, when LaVette performs at a free concert (7 p.m. start) at the Santa Monica Pier.
Elsewhere: In conjunction with its ongoing "Jews of Vinyl" exhibition, the Skirball Center presents its Jews on Vinyl Revue, with singer Hedva Amrani, jazz cellist Fred Katz ad Sol Zim (the "Tom Jones" of cantorial music) -- all backed by a band featuring David Green, David Goodwin, DJ Bonebrake and Mike Bolger. (Johnny Mathis will also appear to accept an award from the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation.
Also: Indie rock west of the 405? Doesn't happen often, but two of L.A. best up-and-comers hit the Brixton in Redondo Beach tonight -- Eastern Conference Champions and Voxhaul Broadcast. ... Also Outdoors and free, it's Wallpaper and Chain Gang of 1974 in Pershing Square downtown.
And: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones at the House of Blues; Jets Overhead, Italian Japanese, Sea of Cortez and Sabrosa Purr at the Roxy; Woven Bones at Spaceland; a second night of Childish Gambino at the Bootleg Theater; Jogger at the Echo; Prima Donna at the Troubadour; Wet & Reckless and Lesands at LaBrie's in Glendale; the Color Turning and International Tennis Champions at the Silverlake Lounge; Ballerina Black at 3 Clubs; the Mormons at the Redwood; Vaud and the Villains at the Mint; and Crowded House's 7 p.m. in-store at Amoeba.