|Mercury News - San Fransisco||Annie Lennox's first show in San Francisco in nine years was like an
antidote to all those insipid televised talent shows so many of us
have been hooked on for months.
Here was a woman, who as Simon from ``American Idol'' would say, is
``the whole package.''
During her powerful, sold-out 90-minute set Wednesday at the stately
Orpheum Theater, the singer from Scotland proved to be a diva who, at
48, not only has the pipes but delivered lyrics about love and loss
as though they were etched on her heart.
Sorry, but in five lifetimes, Kelly Clarkson, or the publicity
juggernaut that is Madonna, or the newest teen queen Avril Lavigne is
not going to come up with a line like ``Dying is easy, it's living
that scares me to death,'' as Lennox sang from ``Cold.''
Underneath the gloss, and a band that played as tightly as a 1970s
disco unit, was the chill of a woman coming to terms, not with some
reality TV version of the human condition but with the human
condition itself, including the breakup of the 12-year marriage for
which she had set aside her pop career.
This wasn't a night of fist-raising anthems or rock 'n' roll shuck
and jive. Lennox's tapestry was laced with sadness and dark poetry,
subdued spiritual extensions of the complexities of her musical life.
Lennox is someone who can make you dance to a song about walking on
broken glass, or cry to one that wonders why a romance has broken up.
Her concert was a triumph of form and content, a huge change from
these lifeless wannabes filling the TV screen, covering hits like
human versions of the California raisins.
Much of the night was spent on selections from ``Diva,'' her album
from 1992, along with a few songs from the upcoming ``Bare''
(scheduled for release June 10) and older hits from her 1980s band
Eurythmics, including rocked out versions of ``Sweet Dreams (Are Made
of This)'' and ``Missionary Man''.
``I never want to close my eyes again,'' she sang in one of the new
songs filled with lyrics about the pains of lost love. Another rang
out with the line: ``All my dreams have fallen flat.'' A third,
``Bitter Pill,'' included a strange juxtaposition, something Lennox
always has done well:
``How could you be so uncool, to fall in love with someone who
doesn't care for you,'' she sang, contrasting the line a moment later
when she sang, almost sarcastically: ``I feel so wonderful.''
The new material sounded like it will make for a great, poignant
break up album, along the lines of a Neil Young song she covered,
``Don't Let It Bring You Down,'' which psychiatrists should prescribe
before they hand out the Prozac to splitting couples. Lennox looked
like she would cry when she finished a version of the song that mixed
tenderness and a cry for strength.
Backed by purple lights, in a black leather jacket and a watchman's
cap tilted over one ear, she was greeted with a standing ovation as
she opened with ``Money Can't Buy It.'' Later, she moved over to solo
piano for ``Here Comes the Rain Again'' and a song she recorded with
Aretha Franklin, ``Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves,'' boldly
changing tempos and updating the radio version, and leaving the piano
to shimmy and sing with three backup singers filling in Franklin's
Her band included Adam Wakeman, son of Yes keyboard player Rick
Wakeman, on keyboards and guitar.
This was the last night of a sold-out U.S. tour of small theaters,
but to judge from the audience response, she likely will return.