Macy Gray didn’t use her House of Blues appearance to preview her upcoming “The Trouble With Being Myself” (due in June on Epic), but the 90-minute show still gave a sense of the direction she will take. Even without tipping her hand, the evening whets the appetite for the album.
Pulling back from the Cinemascope soul of “The Id,” Gray now takes her cues from the loopy crunch of Funkadelic. She’s still up for a party, but it’s no longer a high-stepping parade. The horns and background singers have been shorn, putting the focus on chunky keyboards and thumping bass, giving the music a darker, more rock-influenced hue. Even joyous stomps such as “Sexual Revolution” are stripped down to choked guitar lines and DJ scratches. The song selection mirrors the music’s transformation, leaning on the more disquieting elements of her catalog, such as “I’ve Committed Murder” and “Relating to a Psychopath.” Even one of the two new tunes previewed, an Aretha Franklin-styled heartbreak ballad, saw her admit, “We’ll never get out of this world alive.”
Still, Gray keeps things from becoming too gloomy. “Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak” included a hilarious shout out to male genitalia set to loping James Brown groove. And the set-ending surreal oom-pah of “Oblivion” was leavened by writing the paranoid lyrics on posterboard and flipping through them a la Bob Dylan in “Don’t Look Back.”