Mandy Moore came of age, career-wise, around the same time as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and a host of other female singers. Even before the turn of the millennium, she was talking the talk about being more than just one of the girls, but with her newly released reinvention disc, “Amanda Leigh,” she’s finally walking the walk in earnest.
The evidence was apparent at this stripped-down, thoroughly engaging show, the first public performance of the new material. In the process she proved her mettle not only as a singer — the quality of her voice has never really been in question — but as a mature performer who could pass muster at both a coffeehouse and a cabaret.
While there was nothing terribly revelatory in what Moore did during her hour-plus onstage, her ability to maneuver seamless switches from torchy to tense, incensed to ingenue-like, was certainly impressive — in part due to the melodies crafted by New York power-pop vet Mike Viola, her co-writer on most of the new disc’s songs and chief accompanist at this engagement.
Moore was at her best when navigating terrain best described as alternative lite, like the spunky-but-sweet “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week,” a tune that’d fit snugly in the catalog of Sheryl Crow. She also showcased a surprisingly subtle smokiness on songs like “Everblue,” one of a passel of piano-bar-perfect, mid-tempo offerings.
There were stumbles along the way. Now and again, the singer lapsed into showtune brassiness in a way that contrasted unfavorably with both the music’s easygoing vibe and the guileless presentation she afforded it. For the most part, however, Moore came across as a restrained and adult craftswoman — and not as a pop star playing dress-up in singer-songwriter trappings.