My plan to update the site more regularly has been compromised by the fact that since last Thursday, my home computer has been crapping out on a regular basis. I’ve diagnosed it (hopefully correctly) as a problem with my 4-year-old power supply, and a spiffy new one is on the way. But I’ll likely be without a home PC for the rest of the week (since my 7-year-old laptop also ate it a few months ago). Still, I have some new stuff to post and will hopefully be able to get around to it before then.
In the meantime, I should continue to erode my music-snob credibility, and report back on my second big pop concert of the year (and, er, my life): Nelly Furtado at George Mason University’s Patriot Center. This was nothing near the over-the-top spectacle that was the Christina Aguilera concert I saw in April — which shouldn’t really be surprising, since, Furtado and Aguilera are pretty fundamentally different artists. Furtado gets lumped in with mega-produced booty-pop these days thanks to a couple big hit songs with Timbaland, but her background is more of a singer-songwriter one than anything else. The stage show last Friday reflected that.
The most glaring thing I noticed, in fact, was that Furtado didn’t seem especially comfortable with being a pop star. She often avoided the spotlight, singing in the background while her four dancers exuded the stage presence she lacked. I found myself inadvertently watching the dancers more than I watched Furtado. When the show ended, both after the main set and after the encore, Furtado scampered off stage many seconds before the closing note, leaving her band to play the exit music and bask in the audience applause. Also, she played guitar in two songs, and we all know that real pop stars don’t play instruments!
The music itself was surprising — not just the arrangements, but even the musical content of the songs was frequently significant different from the album versions, such that I was continually pleasantly surprised. In keeping with the not-really-a-pop-star theme, Furtado even let her band have a ton of solos (guitar, keyboards, even drums), the highlight of which was a beautiful, nimble acoustic guitar solo in the middle of “All Good Things (Come to an End).” And speaking of the band, they were pretty talented, and played everything live (even the sequenced beats were played live by two keyboardists), and seemed much more relevant to the music than most bands that back up pop stars.
So I guess I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the music in this concert, and by its presentation. The set included five straight slow songs in the middle section, which a real pop musician would never do, but one effect of Furtado’s roots as a songwriter are that her slow songs are much more engaging than your typical pop ballads (”All Good Things” being the best example). The spectacle was definitely low-key — a giant disco ball lowering to stage level to kick off the show was about as over-the-top as it got. Folks coming for the visuals were probably disappointed, but all things considered I was pretty happy with the music.