In search of a new record label, Maria McKee leaned on songs from her solo career in front of a faithful legion of fans at the sold-out Hollywood Athletic Club. Whether decision-makers on hand, if they were there at all, were impressed with the new material and can help her land a deal, however, is very much in doubt.
The crowd clearly ached, however, for dust-gathered tunes from her days fronting Lone Justice, the L.A.-based mid-’80s Next Big Thing that generated great press, terrific word of mouth and a spot opening for U2 on the band’s “Joshua Tree” tour.
She opened with the title cut from her last album, the disappointing “Life Is Sweet” (Geffen), before rolling through new, unreleased material and solo shots.
McKee, who seems to be in a constant dilemma as to whether she wants to rock out or stick with the country-fied solo material, mixed things up fairly well Thursday but clearly had better success with the slower, lyric-intensive numbers. When she tries to go toe-to-toe with an electric guitar, as she did with several new songs, McKee’s distinctive sound was buried by the reverb.
It was the quieter material, strumming an acoustic guitar from an onstage chair, that had the audience hanging onto every syllable; the older material worked best in this fashion, too. If she’s serious in finding a new label and finding a new brand of popularity, this seems the logical route to go.