Lilith is over the hill-ith,” actress-comedian Caroline Rhea announced at the start of the Girls Room. That may well be the case, but the Capitol Records package tour took its cues from Sarah McLachlan’s suspended traveling festival, with a lineup of up-and-coming female artists that would have fit in comfortably on Lilith’s second stage.
The four performers fit the Lilith mold of folkish singer-songwriters, with each displaying a different aspect of distaff stardom in their short, half-hour sets. Like the barmaids in “Coyote Ugly,” you could pigeonhole the acts in one or two words: Amy Correia was miss congeniality; Kendall Payne, the tomboy; Tara MacLean, the sophisticate; and Shannon McNally, the heartbreaker.
With her sparkling eyes and blazing smile, Correia could win over a crowd on charm alone. She’s the overachiever who has friends in every clique and probably throws great parties. She also has an alluringly grainy voice and slurred, jazzy phrasing that shows off her smart, quirky songs to best advantage.
Payne, the youngest of the acts on the bill, has a strong, broad-shouldered voice and a dewy, megawatt charisma. She attacks the stage with a swagger that takes on the boys at their own game. But her material was not up to her performance. Songs such as “Supermodels” (heard on the WB show “Popular”) and the U2-esque “Modern Day Moses” suffered from their undigested influences. Her talents are apparent, if raw, and given the chance, she could develop into something special. “Scratch,” a new song, is a step in the right direction, a ballad that digs beneath the surface.
MacLean comes across as the Girls Room’s most adult act. With her ethereal voice, cool blonde looks and striking presence, she comes across as worldly and grown-up. But there is a studied quality to her performance that keeps even the most dramatic material from making an impact.
This was not a problem for McNally. Her performance had an earthy sensuality, a combination of sophistication and naturalness that’s immediately appealing. It’s not hard to imagine McNally walking out of a Fellini movie or turning up in a Tennessee Williams play. Her dusky, throaty vocals complemented her songs’ combination of country, soul and blues that was nailed by her band, anchored by the steady drumming of Don Heffington.
In keeping with the Lilith mold, there was a sense of sisterhood and cooperation in all the performances. The singers would join each other onstage or could be seen in the audience singing and dancing along. And for the finale, all four took the stage, joined by Victoria Williams and freestyle rapper Toni Blackman, the winner of tour-linked contest, for “All My Tears” and James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” But, as J.B. said, it’s nothing without a woman or a girl — something the Girls Room made clear.