Nina Simone sings

The New York Times
Stephen Holden 13 July 1984

"Isn't music wonderful! I think it's the salvation of the earth!"

Nina Simone burst out near the end of her opening set at the Blue Note last Wednesday. Though not many pop performers can back up this kind of statement with music that seems intent on really changing peoples lives, Miss Simone's singing has that kind of emotional fervor.

And because she doesn't shy away from expressing her darker side, her concerts tend to be emotional roller-coaster rides on which the faithful glory in the diva's mercurial mood changes, while skeptics grumble.
Last Wednesday, Miss Simone was in a mellow and retrospective frame of mind, and her commandingly dark, reedy alto was in fine form. Opening her set with a ruminative "Little Girl Blue," she interpolated some original lyrics into the song to give it a pronounced contemporary flavor. Substituting words such as "liberated" for "unlucky" and adding African references, she also made the song an autobiographical reflection on the troubled state of the singer's soul.

Accompanied by her longtime musical cohorts, the guitarist Al Shackman and the percussionist Leopoldo Fleming, the singer brought the same complex psychological perspective to Bob Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," a song whose phantasmagorical imagery naturally plays into Miss Simone's moodiness. By emphasizing certain key phrases, tossing off others, and throwing in her own observations, the singer also transformed Janis Ian's "Stars" from an abstract meditation on fame into a personal reflection on the absurdities of show business.