If anyone was still wondering what happened to the overzealous tween fans of ‘N Sync and Britney Spears, the answer is now obvious: They grew up (just a bit) and became enamored of pop-rock artists like Gavin DeGraw, introduced here as “the sound of ‘One Tree Hill.’ ” That’s as good a description of the slow-burn success “Chariot” (J Records) as any a reviewer could offer, since “I Don’t Want to Be,” which serves as the WB show’s theme song, hits the same melodramatic, unironic notes as DeGraw’s songwriting — which, of course, those teens eat up.
DeGraw is headlining a tour that a few years ago would have made no sense: a concert tour as the soundtrack for a TV show. “One Tree Hill” is far less hip than music-centric TV shows “The OC” and “Gilmore Girls” but has a similarly appealing demographic, and the artists featured here all fit the teen-drama mold of the show (hell, one of them, Tyler Hilton, is even an actor on it.)
But DeGraw, with his aw-shucks delivery of Love songs with a capital L, succeeds above the others because he seems to have pedigree behind him. He tried to prove this with a funkless funk version of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” which segued into a soulless soul version of “Proud Mary,” accompanied by every hand in the front row reaching for him or taking a quick snap with a cameraphone.
He fared much better with a solo electric version of “Let’s Get It On,” inspiring the 15-year-old girls in the audience (even the ones sitting with their fathers) to scream along while he sang “I want to make love to you.”
His leather vest seems rough-and-tumble, but his simple drawl suggests innocence — the perfect match for a teen crush — and, with his aggressive croon on the future wedding-party first-dance ballad “More Than Anyone,” his voice reaches near-“American Idol” levels — John Mayer meets Clay Aiken.
But by the time he got to “I Don’t Want to Be,” much of the audience had left, and while it’s tempting to riff on teen curfews, the truth of the matter may be that they were so screamed out, even this climax would have been anticlimactic.
The Wreckers, a new band featuring established pop songwriter Michelle Branch and newcomer Jessica Harp, preceded DeGraw with a solid set of country-inspired songs. It seems Branch picked up a new sense of harmonies from her tour with the Dixie Chicks a couple of years ago; both she and Harp nailed the sweet vocals on the very twangy “My Oh My.” It’s too bad their band was loose to the point of sloppiness; with a bit of tightening, these songs could compete with anything from Nashville newcomer Jessi Alexander.