On Thursday evening, Mavis Staples hosted an early birthday gathering of Friends at New York’s famed Apollo Theater, the first of three performances as part of her cross-country 80th birthday celebration that will also hit Nashville and Los Angeles later this month. The legendary vocalist welcomed a slew of collaborators throughout the night, including David Byrne, Warren Haynes, Jason Isbell, Norah Jones, Lake Street Dive, Jon Batiste and more.
The concert opened with Staples offering three tunes plucked from different eras of her storied career, starting with The Staple Singers’ 1973 single “If You’r Ready (Come Go With Me)” and continuing with “Take Us Back” from Staples’ 2016 album, Livin’ On a High Note, and the singer’s recent single “Anytime” from her upcoming album, We Get By.
Byrne kicked off the guest portion of the night by joining Staples for a rendition of his Talking Heads tune “Slippery People.” Next up was Isbell, who emerged for another We Get By track, “Change,” followed by The Lone Bellow taking part in a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s classic “For What It’s Worth.” Valerie June then joined for Staples’ “High Note” (which June penned and guested on) before the host of the night took on The Staple Singers’ “Freedom Highway” by herself.
The guests kept rolling out with Maggie Rogers, who was not originally on the bill for the night and came out for the traditional “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” Haynes then guested on “We’re Gonna Make It,” followed by Lake Street Dive on “Build a Bridge,” Norah Jones on “You Are Not Alone” and, finally, Jon Batiste on The Staple Singers’ iconic hit “I’ll Take You There.” Staples then welcomed out all of the night’s guests for a finale performance of The Band’s “The Weight.”
See the full setlist below, along with some photos and videos from the night (plus some great crowd banter with Staples and Batiste). Staples continues her 80th birthday celebration with two more guest-filled shows in Nashville May 15 and in Los Angeles May 22.
Mavis Staples & Friends
Apollo Theater – New York, NY
If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me), Take Us Back, Anytime, Slippery People (w/ David Byrne), Change (w/ Jason Isbell), For What It’s Worth (w/ The Lone Bellow), High Note (w/ Valerie June), Freedom Highway, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? (w/ Maggie Rogers), We’re Gonna Make It (w/ Warren Haynes), Build a Bridge (w/ Lake Street Dive), You Are Not Alone (w/ Norah Jones), I’ll Take You There (w/ Jon Batiste)
Enc: The Weight (w/ all)