May 17, 2005
My indie cred be damned: Kelly Clarkson rocked the Dodge Theatre in her tour stop there Monday night.
This, despite the pear-shaped pop princess’ pedigree as an “American Idol” starlet, a Billboard chart-topper and airbrushed Teen People ingenue. Credit her studio-tight, well-coiffed backing band of rock ragamuffins, who helped Clarkson tear through 1 1/2 hours of singles, cute covers and acoustic interludes with a sweaty, sweet sincerity. Proof was in their fiery punk rock reworking of “A Moment Like This,” her treacly first hit, during the encore.
Touring with a comfortably stripped-down set that’s little more than long swaths of fabric and oversized Pier One accessories hanging from the flyspace, Clarkson approaches her concerts with a self-effacing downhome shtick that prompts her to say things like “Cool beans!” (and “I’m gonna break it down for y’all,” and “I laid out today and got burnt!”) between songs. Her ease with the audience was perhaps most evident Monday during her acoustic rendition of “Breakaway,” during which she autographed everything from ticket stubs to flip-flop sandals for rabid fans.
Clarkson claims inspiration from soulsters like Janis and Aretha — she and her band wound through Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)” midway through her set — but her voice is pure Whitney, totally Mariah, prone to Tourette’s-like bursts of soulful coloratura at the end of every phrase, in grand “Idol” fashion.
If there’s a weakness in Clarkson’s catalog of songs that comes across in concert (besides the obligatory slew of bubblegum-dumb lyrics), it’s that too many of them serve as simple verse-chorus filler leading up to bombastic vocal dazzlement, then sharply fading off to meet pop’s required three-minute time limit. The rush to bombast comes at the sake of letting songs breathe for themselves.
But, oh, that coloratura. It keeps coming with the intensity of a true diva. After an unflagging 20-song bout, Clarkson proves she’s got workhorse stamina.
More than anything, in fact, her concerts come off as Miss Clarkson’s attempt to prove herself: That she’s no prefab pop piffle (she’s not), that she can write her own songs (that’s iffy), that she can belt ’em out with the best of ’em (indeed) and isn’t confined to the babysoft world of diva pop. She makes the strongest case for the latter — turning a pop concert into something a little more raw, a little more exciting and unexpected.
Which, when compared to the prefab pap delivered by her teenybop-pop peers, just plain rocks.
“Since U Been Gone”
“Just Missed the Train”
“What’s Up Lonely”
“The Trouble With Love is”
“Piece of My Heart”
“The Thrill is Gone”
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)”
“Because of You”
“Where is Your Heart”
“Behind These Hazel Eyes”
“A Moment Like This”