Joss Stone at Celebrity Theatre: Wednesday, April 2, 2008

By Steve Jansen

Better than: A majority of popular R&B.

One reason I wanted to see a live performance featuring Joss Stone – the white girl who sounds like a black soul singer (what does that lame stereotype written by critics even mean?) – was to see if she was legit. She’s hot, young, talented, and carries a mean set of vocal chords. (Yeah, big deal, because so do many others.)

Obviously, one can only deduce so much from a studio album (Stone’s has released three of those) and her records are pretty damn good, especially her 2003 debut The Soul Sessions that showcases the English cutie singing vintage American soul tunes. So, my secret challenges to her during her Wednesday night gig at Celebrity Theatre was to see if 1) She could wow me or 2) If she doesn’t blow me away, could she keep me interested and engaged?

Challenge numero uno was answered four tunes into the set: No, Stone and her ten-piece band didn’t wow me. The very average group came out with low energy, even when Stone engaged the crowd in a standup, sing-along rendition of arguably her most recognizable tune, William Garner’s “Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin on Me?)” (My concert companion commented that such a participatory tune at the beginning of the show was premature. I’d have to agree.)

But Stone did succeed in challenge number two. Though the more upbeat songs sounded as if they belonged in a Nickelodeon show or the main material for a Soul 102 course, Stone succeeded the most during numerous slow jams. The sparse accompaniment in these songs allowed the three talented backup vocalists to add textures and colors to Stone’s honey sweet voice.

In between songs, Stone kept things light and fun when she spouted 20-year old-isms about crushes, heartbreak, and vices such as swearing too much while parading around stage in bare feet. She’s definitely a charmer with talent and someone who could very well become a soul pioneer with some additional maturity and training.

Personal bias: I’m a stereotypical sucker for English accents so I turned into putty every time Stone said, “Cheers.”

Random detail: About Celebrity’s infamously cool rotating stage, Stone addressed the crowd and said that the show was the “funniest gig I have ever played because the stage has never moved before.”

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