Irma Thomas’s trademark standards–“Don’t Mess With My Man,” “Wish Someone Would Care,” the original “Time Is on My Side”–helped define R & B, but they only touch on the surface: Thomas’s reputation as a soul and blues immortal is based largely on numbers like “It’s Raining” that never became hits outside Louisiana and Mississippi but that are now acknowledged as some of the most affecting works in the entire R & B canon. On a good night she can deliver everything from full-blown New Orleans rave-ups to aching ballads with supple vocal panache and showmanship that’s rarely equaled. Unfortunately, her performance at last year’s ponderous Benson & Hedges blues extravaganza was heavy on the schmaltz and scanty on what she does best. This gig, in the comfortable roadhouse surroundings of a small, friendly nightclub, might inspire her to ignite the old fires again. Tonight, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Stuart Brinan.