Whatever one thinks of Kelly Clarkson's artistic achievements thus far, it's hard to deny her the respect she's earned for weathering virtually nonstop bashing of both her talent -- admittedly, a fair target for anyone who steps in front of a microphone, of course -- and the very core of her being.

Whatever one thinks of Kelly Clarkson’s artistic achievements thus far, it’s hard to deny her the respect she’s earned for weathering virtually nonstop bashing of both her talent — admittedly, a fair target for anyone who steps in front of a microphone, of course — and the very core of her being.

The latter aspect — she’s been slagged for being a puppet, for refusing to be a puppet and (most ridiculously) for allowing herself to physically deteriorate to the point where she’s a candidate for a spot on “Celebrity Fit Club.”

Clarkson cast aside most of those demons at a spirited, if inconsistent, perf that showcased her natural affability and capacity for tapping into the energy of her aud, on the one hand, and her inability to recognize her limits — which she hit most forcefully when trying to cut her way through the set’s most overamped numbers.

The singer is also apparently convinced that she carries a bit more edge than she actually does; she’s actually closest to being a post-millennial analog to Pat Benatar, which is nothing to be ashamed of. She has a sturdy rock-gal voice (one that didn’t need the sweetening provided by a pair of background vocalists) and the sort of demeanor that makes her seem like the ideal partner for draining a sixer of low-cost brew — particularly when venting universally relatable sentiments like those she aired on a powerful “Never Again.”

But in the early stages of the 80-minute perf, she channeled a goth-girl persona that seemed both stilted and not particularly welcomed by the still young-skewing aud, who had little clue what to make of the set’s darker numbers. Clarkson connected much more electrifyingly when she turned to hits like the undeniably infectious “Since U Been Gone” and an impassioned rendition of Patty Griffin’s gospel-blues “Up to the Mountain.”

She seemed perfectly at ease working the stage of a midsized venue like the Beacon (she gave a deer-in-the-headlights perf at July’s Live Earth extravaganza). It was wise idea to scale back the arena tour she was originally slated to have been winding up around this point.

Clarkson performs at L.A.’s Gibson Amphitheater on Nov.18.

Kelly Clarkson

Beacon Theater; 3,084 seats; $65 top

Production

Presented by Live Nation. Musicians: Kelly Clarkson, Jason Halbert, Cory Churko, Einar Pederse, Aben Eubanks, Chris Deaner, Jill Pickering, Kate Rapier. Opened and reviewed Oct. 14, 2007. Closed Oct. 16, 2007.

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