|Washington Post||The National Theatre isn't known as a concert hall. A list on its Web site of performers who have appeared there since its 1835 inception references but one concert, given by opera superstar Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale." That was 153 years ago.
The booking policy seems due for a loosening up after Annie Lennox's boffo Tuesday gig at the stately playhouse. In the early portions of her nearly two-hour set, the British chanteuse and former Eurythmics frontwoman, who is now on her first tour without ex-paramour and band mate Dave Stewart, appeared overwhelmed by the surroundings. After patrons began dancing in the aisles during her synth-heavy solo hit from 1992, "Walking on Broken Glass," Lennox tried to quell the enthusiasm, declaring in regal tones, "You may sit down!" Her subjects obeyed that command for a time, such as when she introduced material from "Bare," a CD that won't be released until June. But fans were soon back on their feet.
And Lennox, who for much of the night sang like Aretha but sometimes emoted a little too much like Celine, eventually submitted to the idolatry. She even attempted a microphone spin, à la Roger Daltrey, during the 1987 Eurythmics nugget "You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart" (Daltrey has nothing to worry about). Her cover of Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down" was heavy and heavenly. She pumped her fists along with the fans on a very rocky rendition of "Would I Lie to You?" The encore of "Sweet Dreams" and "I Need a Man" sent the crowd streaming onto Pennsylvania Avenue at least as happy as those who left the Jenny Lind show back in 1850.
|richmondtimesdispatch.com||WASHINGTON - Who would think that after more than a decade away from routine touring, Annie Lennox would remain such a vital force onstage?
She's stated that acute stage fright often grips her gut, but Lennox displayed unbridled confidence and unconventional sexiness at her sold-out D.C. show Tuesday.
At: National Theatre on Tuesday
This first solo tour for the former voice of the Eurythmics is a quick, monthlong jaunt through small theaters to build anticipation for her third solo album, "Bare," dropping June 10.
"This is the first time [this theater] has had a gig like this in 150 years," Lennox said to the ovation-happy crowd of about 1,650. "We can see eyeball to eyeball."
Though the evening was hardly an infomercial for the new album, the handful of tracks Lennox and her crisp five-piece band unveiled indicate that one night next February - at the Grammys - could be joyful for the 48-year-old Scotland native.
The dramatic ballad, "A Thousand Beautiful Things," showcased the phenomenal range of Lennox's voice, but it was the swelling "Pavement Cracks" that made the most noise, deftly mixing Lennox's penchant for strong wails with a contemporary rhythm - adult pop at its finest.
Aside from her ridiculously soulful voice, what has always anchored Lennox's songs - both solo and with Eurythmics partner Dave Stewart - is their probing of deep fears and disappointments, pain and, occasionally, hopefulness.
The aching "No More 'I Love You's'" and "Walking on Broken Glass" resounded with the same intensity as on record, thanks largely to Lennox's trio of roaring backup singers, Carol Kenyon, Beverly Skeete and Claudia Fontaine. The girls later stepped out to join Lennox on a searing version of "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves," accompanied only by a piano, initially played by Lennox.
Though she has been content to live in Europe and raise her two daughters the past several years, detouring only for a 1999 Eurythmics record ("Peace"), Lennox appeared thrilled to wrap herself in her songs and get lost in their caress. Graceful arm twirls punctuated "Cold" and Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down" (and really, who would you rather hear sing that song?), while a knee jutted in time against the microphone stand to the tough-talking "Bitter Pill," a new tune with a funky backbeat similar to Mary J. Blige's "Family Affair."
The leggy Lennox looked great - though a bit too slender - in a stylish knit beret (which eventually gave way to her cropped blond locks), black slacks and a brown leather jacket. Given the "preview" nature of this tour, the sparse stage accouterments were expected; nothing but a flood of colored lights and a giant video screen sporadically laced with words such as "Pause," "Solo 2003" and as she left the stage, "Pray for Peace," adorned the area.
Encores of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and "I Need a Man" prompted the expected stomp-along. But there is a reason the gorgeous "Why" was chosen to cap Lennox's 90-minute set. Every second of the song contains a sadness so palpable against its stark arrangement that audience members couldn't help but leave the Theatre somehow affected.
She might have nicknamed herself "Diva" on her 1992 solo debut, but Lennox plays the role of catharsis-inspiring shrink more than demanding prima donna, hence her obvious desire to soon strip down to her soul.