NEW BEDFORD — Cyndi Lauper herself seemed surprised by what was happening.
“Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead doing this,” she said to a full house at the Zeiterion Theatre on Tuesday, noting that she doesn’t think of herself as an oldies act.
Yet there she was, onstage celebrating the 30th anniversary of her debut album, whose title ended up setting the tone for her long and colorful career.
“She’s So Unusual” was a benchmark not just for Lauper, but also a watershed moment for 1980s pop music. Its brash mix of heartfelt sentiment and kooky humor encapsulated that era and produced four Top 5 hits you might still know by heart: “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “She Bop,” and “All Through the Night.”
At the Zeiterion, the closest this tour will get to Boston, Lauper played the album from start to finish with the vigor of someone who never grew tired of it. It was a reminder not only of the record’s longevity — truly, “Time After Time” remains one of the all-time great pop songs — but also of what a singular force Lauper was then and now.
After all these years, Lauper is still an exotic creature. Her true colors Tuesday night turned out to be black leather, sparkly fringe, and a raspberry rinse on her nest of hair streaked with blond strands.
Once she finished “She’s So Unusual,” she and her band returned for an encore that included “Sex Is in the Heel,” a song from “Kinky Boots,” the Broadway musical that recently won Lauper a Tony Award for writing its music and lyrics. Accompanying herself on dulcimer — which she played like she had also played ukulele (“like a gorilla, but that doesn’t stop me”) — she closed the evening with a tender rendition of “True Colors.”
Lauper, who turned 60 last month even if her spirit and voice are decades younger, was in storytelling mode, relaying several extended passages about the making of “She’s So Unusual.”
Fun facts abounded: Brill Building songwriting great Ellie Greenwich helped to come up with the chorus of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” encouraging Lauper to sing it in “that accent of yours.” (Lauper claimed she’s been trying to lose that Queens, N.Y., accent all her life; thankfully she never did.) That giggle you hear on “She Bop” was prompted by Lauper recording the song with her shirt off in the studio and inadvertently tickling herself.
Lauper had a theory why “She’s So Unusual” has stood the test of time. She didn’t have any boundaries then and wanted to create something that would make people laugh and cry. “I guess we did it,” she said, and there was a collective nod from everyone around me.