Concert review: Vanity Theft at U Street Music Hall robs punk of its spirit
On paper, Vanity Theft sounds delightfully incongruous: a young, all-female rock quartet that compares itself to riot grrrl bands and includes a Disney Channel veteran (former "Lizzie McGuire'' co-star Lalaine) on bass. But the Vanity Theft that performed Friday evening at the U Street Music Hall had little affinity for Bikini Kill, and no Lalaine. A fresh bassist, introduced by guitarist Brittany Hill as "our new friend Amanda,'' joined just in time for this tour, which had started a few days earlier.
The sparse but enthusiastic crowd didn't appear to mind and seemed unconcerned that Vanity Theft had left a significant amount of its sound back in the studio. The Ohio band's slickly produced new album, "Get What You Came For,'' melds rock with dance-pop and lite-funk to craft a style that has contemporary mainstream appeal. But the group didn't use recorded or pre-programmed tracks onstage, opting for a classic-rock attack that emphasized Alicia Grodecki's vocals and Hill's guitar.
The 11-song, 50-minute set showed something of punk's vigor but very little of its anarchic spirit or edgy counterpoint. Grodecki, who sometimes wore her Roland keyboard around her neck, played a few contrapuntal synth riffs, but they weren't integral to the sound. As a unit, the group seemed a little stiff, but that will probably improve as the tour progresses and the new bassist becomes more comfortable with the material.
If the band's refusal to electronically bolster its sound was mildly rebellious, its songs were less defiant. Most played to Grodecki's sex appeal - she has both the looks and the moves for teen-pop stardom. The evening's biggest crowd-pleaser was "Anatomy,'' which offered a clap-along intro, a stomping glitter-rock beat and this pandering refrain: "I don't want you for your mi-mi-mi-mi-mind.'' Maybe someday - after performing for bigger crowds - Vanity Theft will write about lust with a little more mindfulness.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.