(St. Andrews Hall, Detroit, MI – September 25th, 2007)
Once a bubble-gum pop star in the manner of early Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears, Mandy Moore now works to be thought of as a maturing singer and actress.
Hip Hop, Booty, Dancehall and Electro. If you want to rock to these tunes and more, then Saint Andrews Hall in downtown Detroit is where DJ Godfather and Paul Martindale perform.
So, put the two described entities together and well, you get imagery that - at least from the moment both worlds collided at 9.30pm - looked and felt like something out of a comic book day dream sequence!
As the All-American pop singer, songwriter and actress took to the small, cramped stage with her four-man backing band, it was clearly obvious that she was not exactly thrilled to be there. As the opening chords of 'Slummin' In Paradise' were cranked out, Moore looks first around the dark, barely lit stage, then at her guitarist. Both times possibly in search of some positive acknowledgement for what she was undertaking on this her (surprisingly after all this time) first ever solo tour!
Somewhat strolling through that and both 'All Good Things' and 'Looking Forward,' it was finally time to greet the 170-strong, hot, sweaty audience. "What's Up, Detroit? We are so excited to be here. This is my first proper tour." Asked by a fan to recite any line from her movie 'Saved,' she freely admits she knows none - until prompted further. "Oh yeah ... I just crashed my van into Jesus," she laughs.
Dressed very causally in a free-flowing, various shades of brown ensemble, the girl that was once trying to outmaneuver fellow junior glamazons Britney, Jessica, and Christina is now more than comfortable in her own skin. Whether it be an acting one or a singing one is still up for discussion. But her voice and stage presence do both get stronger as we head into her wonderful Cat Stevens cover of 'Moonshadow.' This was quite easily one of the top two performances of the night and fully deserved the rapturous applause it received. Although, the fact that anyone in the vastly eclectic Emo-induced audience would know it was a Stevens’s original is neither here nor there.
The arrival on stage of her sometimes co-writing partner - and tonight's opening act - Rachael Yamagata brings forth the tepid 'Ladies' Choice,' but the ultra sensitive title track, 'Wild Hope' (sung under pale green lights) is definitely another set highlight. A snippet of a funky new tune they are all working on is well received, and good, but is over all to quickly before bleeding into 'Extraordinary.'
A cover of Joni Mitchell's 'Help Me' is spot on perfect, and although obviously not a challenge does seem to start to bring some more comfortability to Moore's stage dancing in those instrumental break moments. "I just started playing guitar a few weeks ago," she next admits, her body already adorned with said guitar. "So, don't watch me play, watch them," she pleads before sleeping walking her way through 'Few Days Down.'
But it's as she announces the next song 'Can't You Just Adore Her?' (whilst freely admitting that "It's the angriest song on the album 'cause in my mind, all men f**kin' suck!") that she finally gets the crowd's vocal levels raised. Quite easily the loudest song of the night, she moves swiftly from that to 'Nothing That You Are' ... before everyone mysteriously (and quickly) leaves the stage.
Moore comes back and along with her keyboardist brings us the somber tones of 'Gardenia' before being rejoined by the rest of the band once again midway through. A vastly different, yet incredibly worked ballad version of Rihanna's mega hit 'Umbrella' is pulled out of nowhere and is an instant hit with everyone. Ending the night with a song that is an obvious embarrassment to Moore to still have to play - given that she was 15 at the time when she last probably sang it live on some Mall Tour - the teen dance beat vibes of 'Candy' are unleashed to the now in heaven crowd! Refusing to sing certain parts of the chorus, flirting awkwardly with teen dance moves that once accompanied the song, Moore is so visibly uneasy about the whole show-ending moment. And come its final beat, and with the what's left of the crushed-to-the-front-barriers crowd roaring their hoarse like approval for their idol, she and the band take one final bow and are off into the night.
Review & Photos by Russell A. Trunk