Bay-area band the Donnas brought a newly revamped sound to the sold-out House of Blues on Sunday, where the four gals endeavored with mixed results to move beyond the garage-punk tag that’s marked its six-year recording career.
Band’s new Atlantic album “Gold Medal” sports added vocal harmonies, tighter production (courtesy of Butch Walker), and more engaging, near-pop songwriting than on previous efforts. The quartet, however, still struggles to establish an identity beyond their established Ramones-meets-Runaways persona.
Clad in blue jeans and boots (as opposed to the high heels worn by the ladies in support act the Von Bondies), the Donnas worked hard to keep energy high during their (short) 50-minute perf. Seven of the 12 songs were lifted from the new album, highlighted by the blues-flavored “Out of My Hands,” which featured a hot solo from guitarist Donna C.
A number of the “Gold Medal” songs were flattened, however, by vocalist Donna A.’s awkward new interest in live keyboards. The keys were extremely low in the mix on “It’s So Hard” and “Don’t Break Me Down,” and with the vocalist performing while seated the energy in the room was noticeably sapped.
Some of the older songs fared better at HOB, including “5 o’Clock in the Morning,” which featured a solid Angus Young-inspired riff, 1998’s Joan Jett-approved “You Make Me Hot,” and the melodic encore “Take It Off,” a radio favorite from 2002’s “Spend the Night” album.
The Donnas play Gotham’s Webster Hall on Nov. 30.