LeAnn Rimes performed last Friday night at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, a beautifully (and recently) renovated former movie palace and Broadway style theater. At 1100 seats it is a warm an intimate venue.
Let me get this out of the way right away: LeAnn Rimes is incredible. It's one thing to hear her on record or see video clips, but to watch her in concert is a revelation. Her voice is amazing and my guess is that there isn't a pop singer alive with a better voice than hers, including Adele. LeAnn's pitch is perfect. The quality of her voice is so beautiful it is thrilling. It can be strong, powerful, soulful and sexy and then sweet, simple, fragile and disarming. Her range is incredible and she can growl when she needs to growl, belt when she needs to belt and go high when she needs to go high.
The hour long set ranged from cuts on her new album (which is wonderful by the way) to early recordings like Blue to a soul dance madly ending in RESPECT, to an encore performance of Leonard Cohen's haunting Hallelujah.
On this concert tour LeAnn travels light, a four-piece backing band -- guitar, drums, bass and keys -- and that's all she needs. Because it's not about over production with LeAnn, it's about LeAnn's voice and LeAnn's heart and LeAnn's endearing personality. She puts every bit of herself into every song she sings. She understands that the art of singing is story-telling and that singing is a personal and sometimes intimate experience. She is the genuine article.
On stage, she is adorable. She is beautiful and warm and a little geeky and embracing. Her patter is sweet, and includes her standing up for inclusion and LGBTQ rights. Before "Love is Love" she made her political views known, but warmly, not stridently.
Watching LeAnn in concert made me think about the artifice and homogenization of the music industry these days -- the cookie-cutter appeal to a tightly programmed radio and on-line aesthetic formula. It made me think of those things because LeAnn seems to have broken free from them. I suppose when you have such enormous success as a teenager (Grammy Awards, number one songs, etc.) that you can feel unfettered when you get to be the ripe old age of 35 (!) and you can sing what moves you and write songs that are meaningful to you and reflect who you are as a constantly evolving and growing person.
In my opinion, LeAnn Rimes is fantastic Watching her is like watching a beautifully gifted athlete, like Roger Federer gliding around the tennis court, making perfection look easy. Sooner rather than later she will be on top of the charts again and playing 15,000 seat arenas. So my advice is to catch her now. In relatively intimate places where you feel she is singing to you and a small group of family and friends. Even in out-of-the-way places like Patchogue, New York. - Mark Weston
Mr. Weston is a cultural gadfly and world famous purveyor of happiness. He lives in New York with his family and dog and occasionally dallies in writing plays.