Kelly Clarkson: Live Last Night
By Dave McKenna
Kelly Clarkson, at 27, is a better singer than she's ever been. But she's nowhere near as fun.
At a less than half full Patriot Center on Friday, Clarkson offered rockier material than that usually associated with the original American Idol. She held her own on "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon, "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes, and a hardcore blues version of the Black Keys' "Lies."
(A lack of energy makes for a lackluster set, after the jump.)
She growled in all the right places during Patsy Cline's "Walking After Midnight." And Clarkson's bravery also came through during "Ready," a song she wrote for her latest CD that was inspired by her public feud with industry mogul Clive Davis over musical direction, a battle that forced her to cancel a 2007 tour and put her career in jeopardy. (Judging by the small crowd, that squabble's wounds haven't all healed.) Clarkson didn't rely on the full-out shriek nearly as often as in past performances but, as shown during the domestic-damage chronicle "Because of You," she can still wail when the moment's right.
But whatever artistic growth the late-model Clarkson offers was offset by a dearth of the energy she used to bring along. Plainly, Clarkson isn't yet in show shape as she kicks off her 2009 tour. Whereas previous performances were aerobic workouts all about kinetic energy and explosions of joy, this time out she didn't work the stage at all. Her go-to dance move of the past, a sort of un-selfconscious running-man step, wasn't gone to as Clarkson rendered perfectly crafted pop hits like "Miss Independent" and "Walk Away." Like the Redskins' Albert Haynesworth taking a knee on the sidelines during a defensive stand, Clarkson unplugged "Behind These Hazel Eyes" so she could take a break.
She barely danced during disco tunes "Never Again" and "If I Can't Have You," the latter of which sounds a lot like vintage Human League. She hopped a bit during the set-closing "Since U Been Gone," but while grabbing at her clothing as if afraid some layers were going to fall off.
These days, Clarkson's a fine singer with great songs. She used to be much more.
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