CLEARWATER — Hard to believe it has been 30 years since Cyndi Lauper popped onto the pop music scene with her unique blend of quirky ballads and energetic melodies.
That was 1983, when Lauper launched to fame following the release of her breakthrough album “She’s So Unusual” — the first female debut album to feature four top-five hits.
A near-capacity crowd at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Friday night was thrilled as Lauper paid tribute to that effort by performing the album in its entirety as part of her two-hour performance.
The offbeat songstress, sporting candy apple red hair with black streaks, pink jacket and green sparkles on her pants, displayed the same type of energy and eccentric style that launched her to fame and endeared her to so many fans.
She put her style on display right away by opening with the spirited “Money Changes Everything” before launching into the groundbreaking “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” bringing the mostly middle-aged crowd to its feet in frenzied dancing unison.
That set the stage for a magical night as Lauper dazzled with a voice and youthful — yet more mature — presence that belies her 60 years.
And it wasn’t all about the music. The Queens native’s “New Yawk” accent was on full display as she engaged the crowd with story after story, drawing its undivided attention, lots of laughs, and some “I love you’s” from an especially appreciative few.
Lauper, a Sicilian with a staunch Catholic upbringing, told of introducing manager — and eventual love interest — David Wolff to her family, and their reaction to his resemblance to Jesus Christ.
She spoke of her appreciation for songwriter Prince, whose work greatly influenced that debut effort, as well as other early influences Dexy’s Midnight Runners, The Clash, The Specials and Human League.
She gave a shout-out to wrestling Capt. Lou Albano, a friend whose impact on her career extended far beyond his appearances in her music videos. He taught her the valuable lesson that it’s OK to be booed by thousands of fans, because it means they’re paying attention.
Amid the stories, though, were those memorable hits.
She reached into the soul of the crowd with the impactful “Time After Time” and touching hearts with the inspiring and beautiful “All Through The Night” while raising the energy level with “She Bop,” “I’ll Kiss You” and “Yeah Yeah.”
She also offered a taste of her latest project, kicking up her heels with the upbeat “Sex Is In The Heel” from her Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots.”
And if there was any doubt about how the years would treat that famous voice, they were put to rest with the Gospel-inspired “At Last” and a gripping rendition of “True Colors” as a fitting conclusion.
Lauper has grown from young pop icon to acclaimed Broadway songwriter, but on Friday night she brought back memories of the playful redhead who just wanted to have fun. She did that, and so much more.