I wasn't planning on writing anything on Annie Lennox's concert that took place last Sunday at McFarland Auditorium. I figured I'd just keep it my dirty little secret; something known only to me and the gay guy who went with me. I dunno—even though for the most part I find indie rock elitism and disdain for pop music to be both snooty and an obstruction to truly enjoying music, ol' Annie is just so....soccer mom. Selling my soul for press comps to, say, a Britney Spears concert at least carries with it pop culture relevance and a thick sheen of protective irony, but being swept up in two hours of sincere MILF-rock on the SMU campus is nothing I want to own up to in print.
But, hell, as with pets or venereal disease, sometimes these things choose you; the whole thing was so oddly fascinating, I realized after the show that an Annie analysis is inescapable.
For one thing, I plunked my ass down in the cozy (read: uncomfortably close together) seats in the second-to-last row of the auditorium almost exactly 24 hours after seeing Elizabeth: The Golden Age, in which Kate Blanchett is so fucking awesome!, so I already felt particularly receptive to the close-cropped blonde British Isles lady aesthetic.
The crowd broke down approximately along these lines: 65 percent bald gay men, 29 percent MILFs, 5 percent lesbians, 1 percent miscellaneous/undecided. (I mention this not only so you get an idea of the demographics but also to defend myself from accusations of lack of coolness. After all, while MILF and lesbians' taste is often dubious, even older gay guys know what's cool, so I felt I was in OK territory to some extent.) The atmosphere was decidedly sterile. No smoking! No drinking! No food! Do not spit on the marble floor! Do not stare at the co-eds! Do not look directly into the gleam of the polished maple banister, lest your retinas be burned beyond repair! The best part was the poor black guy half-heartedly waving his metal detector wand at the khaki-clad crotches of white people; the look on his face clearly read, Really?
Really. The trek to the nosebleeds, by the way, was Everest-steep, but nowhere near as chilly; I don't know if the air-conditioner was broken or if the some sort of preppy air-suck was at work, but more than one soccer mom suffered from Mac products melting across her visage. So, what's up with that, SMU? You'd think if you could afford a useless George W. Bush library, you could throw a vent up in that piece.
Nonetheless, all this was forgotten when Lennox took the stage. Even from our crappy seats, her short, bleach-blonde andro-'do was pretty much all the décor the stage needed. Which was a good thing, since the rest of the visuals were, to put it plainly, stark. Lennox stood way, way out in front, with her able band—with two backup singers, a bass player, guitarist, drummer and keyboard player manning a giant bank of synths—filling the back part of the stage. As Lennox launched into "No More I Love Yous," it was obvious her voice is just as fierce and striking as her blonde hair/90-degree cheekbone look. And, it was obvious said voice was going to have to be strong enough to carry the show.
Strong enough, because Lennox's show suffered from a lack of imagination one wouldn't expect from such a strange and intense persona. While her voice is drenched in R&B and soul, it also carries with it a sort of Kate Bush edginess, in addition to its piercing, gorgeous strength. Sadly, her arrangements teetered a bit on the Broadway side of things—a cop-out, really. Yes, they proved professional and zippy enough, but they fell so short of their potential, like a genius kid making a C+ in algebra. Her version of "Here Comes the Rain Again" involved merely her voice and her piano, a combo that should have killed....but it dragged. There were a couple of other tunes that flowed along nicely...until a pointless and bland though perfectly competent guitar solo brought the momentum down. Also: The woma
Dallas Morning News
Annie Lennox mixes fierce artistry, playfulness at McFarlin
09:57 AM CDT on Monday, October 15, 2007
By MARIO TARRADELL / Staff Critic
An Annie Lennox concert proceeds like a three-act play. The first segment immediately engages. The second portion reaches deep into the artistic core. The finale rouses the audience, bringing them to their feet for an explosive ending.
BRANDON THIBODEAUX/Special Contributor
Annie Lennox thrilled the crowd Sunday night at SMU. Before an enthusiastic crowd Sunday night at Southern Methodist University's McFarlin Auditorium, the always dramatic singer-songwriter delivered songs from her four solo albums and a smattering of selections from her days as half of the Eurythmics.
She was backed by a fierce seven-piece band that included two female background vocalists. The 75-minute show's musical heart was rave-up R&B, a style that Ms. Lennox has mastered. But she also found space for a stripped-down midpoint during which she revealed her piano-playing talents.
Opening with "No More 'I Love You's'," the Grammy-winning song from 1995's covers CD Medusa, immediately put her in a playful mood. She pranced around the microphone as if in some spoof of Swan Lake . She followed with "Little Bird" and "Walking on Broken Glass," both from her solo debut, 1992's Diva.
Ms. Lennox is such an expressive singer, able to dip into a rich lower register, then soar to a piercing high. She feels each lyric, singing it with potency and reverence. Within the space of the song, she's in character.
"Pavement Cracks," from 2003's Bare, and "Dark Road," from the new Songs of Mass Destruction, displayed her knack for wringing emotions out of seemingly simple words. "Pavement Cracks" closed with Ms. Lennox as a black silhouette while rays of red lights shone behind her. It was a stunning visual that matched her wrenching vocalizations.
For her piano interludes, she peeled away the layers of the Eurythmics' haunting "Here Comes the Rain Again," turning it into a sultry piano ballad. Ditto for "A Thousand Beautiful Things" which morphed into "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves." The latter tune announced the return to the stage of her background vocalists, two women who soulfully complemented Ms. Lennox's supreme voice.
She took a few more chances, launching into the Eurythmics' "When Tomorrow Comes" and "Thorn In My Side," two less-than-hits that slammed in that rock-meets-R&B style.
Add "Ghost In My Machine," an amazingly funked-up cut from Songs of Mass Destruction, and a heavy take on "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" for that fiery finish.
Her encore? "Sing," her new anthem for HIV-infected African women who pass the virus to their unborn children. It's Ms. Lennox's crusade, to shed light on this cause.
With her force of personality, everybody will stand up and listen.