Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mandy Moore

Maybe Mandy Moore has finally made up her mind. The 23-year-old starlet has been famous for nearly a decade for everything from bubble-gum pop to reality TV, acting in movies such as "Saved!" and "A Walk to Remember" and dating the likes of Andy Roddick and Zach Braff. If she's to be believed, her latest incarnation as earnest, adult-contemporary singer is her true calling, and at a sold-out Birchmere on Tuesday night, she pulled the whole thing off pretty convincingly.

Moore and her five-piece backing band ran through most of the songs from "Wild Hope" -- her fifth album, but the first record she'll claim any credit for. A quick look at some of her collaborators -- Lori McKenna, Chantal Kreviazuk and last night's opening act, Rachael Yamagata -- gives an accurate representation of the sound. "All Good Things" and "Looking Forward to Looking Back" were pleasant, middle-of-the-road folk-pop tunes that would have been perfect for Starbucks before the coffee giant decided it wanted to be hip instead of inoffensive.

There were plenty of breakup songs, but most of them had a hopeful spin to them, which fit Moore's personality. When she introduced "Nothing That You Are" as her angry song, she quickly added, "As angry as I get, at least." It was one of many charming asides throughout the evening, and charming is really the word that best describes Moore. She grew up in the spotlight but turned out to be neither stupid nor trashy. She's modest, has some talent (her vocals on piano ballad "Gardenia" were legitimately impressive) and when she smiles, she's just adorable. These days, that's going way above the bar for a pop star.

-- David Malitz

Charley Gerard

One of the pleasures of alto saxophonist Charley Gerard's recital on Tuesday (hosted by Washington Musica Viva at the Ratner Museum) was hearing mid-20th-century classical composers letting their hair down and embracing popular musical forms. The sultry playfulness of Latin dance partnered unusually well with Jean Francaix's breezy boulevard wit in "Cinq Danses Exotiques." Ditto his fellow Frenchman Darius Milhaud's hip-swaying "Danse."

The bluff humor in Czech-born Erwin Schulhoff's jazz-infused "Hot-Sonate" would not have been amiss accompanying a Laurel and Hardy comedy short. And if Astor Piazzolla looked at music from the other end of the telescope -- a popular composer raising the tango to the seriousness and complexity of classical chamber music -- the intricate workings and virtuosic riffs in his "Tango-Etudes" never overshadowed the feverish compulsion of its dance-hall rhythms.

Gerard's playing displayed the chops and range to embrace the mellow, Gallic phrases of the Francaix, as well as the grittier wailing asked for in parts of the Schulhoff. His lived-in feeling for this material was matched by pianist Carl Banner's stylish, rhythmically scrupulous keyboard work. Two compositions by Gerard -- a wacky cocktail of Dvorak, Art Tatum and Suzuki violin exercises called "Tatumesque," and a melding of Carole King and "The Rite of Spring" titled "Will You Love My Earth Kiss Tomorrow" -- revealed humor and crossover composing skill right in line with the earlier generation of composers on the program.

-- Joe Banno

Bonde Do Role

Marina Ribatski has described her Brazilian trio Bonde Do Role as the "ultimate stupid party," and it happily lived up to that description Tuesday night at the Black Cat.

Formed in 2005, this young group features Ribatski, Pedro D'eyrot and DJ Rodrigo Gorky rapping and chanting in raw-voiced Portuguese slang over programmed mash-ups of old-school hip-hop, punk, Brazilian baile funk and kitschy '80s metal. The group entered to a sample from "The A-Team" TV show, which Gorky quickly faded out as Ribatski charismatically began snarling the lyrics of "Danca Do Zumbi" over hyperactive beats and bursts of head-nodding six-string pyrotechnics. She almost immediately began leaping and flopping all over the stage, as D'eyrot gleefully made devil horns with his fingers.

Bonde Do Role's lyrics are called raunchy, and Ribatski hinted at that visually when she dived between D'eyrot's legs while chanting the singsong verses of "Vitiligo," and later when she removed some of her clothing. Unlike wardrobe-malfunctioning pop stars, however, Ribatski's take on sexuality was tinged with humor. She always had a knowing grin that made her gyrations seem less charged. No matter the message, "Vitiligo" had the audience dancing to its mix of AC/DC guitar and Tone-Loc's "Wild Thing" rhythms.

Derided on some Internet sites as contrived and gimmicky, Bonde Do Role answered these critiques with some numbers that melded genres and remained joyous without using more obvious name-that-tune excerpts. "Solta o Frango" had the trio engaging in call-and-response chants with the pogoing crowd; "Tieta" evoked Carnaval in Rio; and "Geremia" used a kazoo refrain and marching samba drum corps beats.

Although not all of the set's songs exhibited such singular traits, the band's nonstop enthusiasm made it hard not to get caught up in the frenzied pop of "Jabuticaba," the moaning vocals of "Contaminada" and even the revamped "Bondallica's" simplistic combination of "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" movie quotes, generic ax work and bouncy synthesizer lines.

-- Steve Kiviat

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