LeAnn Rimes: Live Last Night

nubians(Photo by By Andrew Propp)

Live Last Night

By Dave McKenna

LeAnn Rimes put out her first and best record when she was just 13. Appearing on Thursday for the first time at Wolf Trap after years of tabloid press had foisted a train wreck aura upon her, Rimes showed she still loves what she does, and does it incredibly well.

Rimes shared the stage with the National Symphony Orchestra and her own regular combo. The problem is, Rimes, at 26, doesn't need a symphony behind her. She doesn't even need a band, really. The most intriguing portions of of her oddly paced set came when she sang with little or no accompaniment.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Rimes opened her set with "Crazy," the Willie Nelson standard made famous by Patsy Cline, and "Blue," a song originally written for Cline that Rimes put on her 1996 debut record, which earned her comparisons to the Winchester siren at the start of her career and made Rimes the youngest Grammy winner of all time. Both performances were boffo, with Rimes' voice plenty powerful and nimble enough to soar over the orchestral backing. But Rimes took an intermission after just those two songs, leaving much of crowd confused and/or stunned as she headed for the wings.

Rimes's material too often fell short of her talents. Her search for crossover success has long had her leaning toward sappy songs ("How Can I Live Without You") that would be better left to Celine Dion. Even the NSO members seemed ready to doze off during some of Rimes's more grandiloquent offerings. But she showed she might be headed in a brassier direction with "God Takes Care of Your Kind," a kiss-off song recorded for her next CD that had Rimes growling like Wynonna.

And no matter the type of tune she was delivering, Rimes, looking great and fit as a fiddle in her white miniskirt, gave her all. Even on the downbeat "What I Can Not Change," which referenced the domestic troubles that kept her in the headlines as a youngster (at 17, she filed a lawsuit accusing her father of stealing millions from her) and the difficulties of being a child star. "It's easier to please the world than it is to please myself," she crooned. For the song's chorus, the orchestra and her band were hushed, leaving Rimes alone to come up with all the sounds. She hit notes for the angels. She's still got it.

By David Malitz |  July 10, 2009; 4:32 PM ET Live Last Night
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