For a guy who claimed he had so much to celebrate — a new album, “The Dave Stewart Songbook, Volume One” (Surfdog/Weapons of Mass Entertainment), and a similarly titled book of photographs and gallery show — Dave Stewart was in a cranky mood at the Roxy Wednesday night.
Over the course of his 90-minute show, backed by his 30-piece “Rock Fabulous Orchestra,” the guitarist-producer and former Eurythmic repeatedly complained about the chatty crowd and the sound mix on stage, turning what could have been a festive event into a grind. If a man can’t be happy playing a sold-out club, surrounded by beautiful women — Ann Marie Calhoun, who plays violin and sings, is a stunner, many of the orchestra members appeared to be hired for their looks as much as their musicianship, and prior to the “Here Comes the Rain Again,” a bevy of attractive young women joined him for his “martini moment” — when could he be satisfied?
Of course, better music might have helped as well. A collection of both his songs for the Eurythmics and his collaborations with luminaries such as Bryan Ferry, Mick Jagger and Bono, both album and show are filled with bombastic self-regard; they’re little more than a way to repackage old material. The songs sound bigger (and, in a small club, often uncomfortably loud), but the orchestrations do little more than re-create the sound of the originals. Those Eurythmics records were perfectly honed, soulfully electronic pop, and having a string section saw away on “Sweet Dreams” or “Here Comes the Rain Again” does little to improve or update them. And the band’s three vocalists only make the absence of Annie Lennox more palpable.
While none of them comes close to Lennox’s combination of gritty sang-froid, Amy Keys was easily the best. A big-voiced soulful singer, she voice blasted through the orchestra, bringing some gospely ardor to her songs. Cindy Gomez made little impression and Sierra Swan was the kind of vocalist who mistakes volume for emotion; she oversings everything, shouting even when the songs call for tenderness.