At the Birchmere on Wednesday night, Duncan Sheik devoted a third of his two-hour set to songs from his forthcoming album, "White Limousine," which is due out early next year. Those new pieces find Sheik on a minimalist kick: The glistening instrumentation provided by his three-piece backing band was just as restrained as Sheik's mellow vocals. His dreamy tenor drifted effortlessly to a falsetto in the meandering "Fantastic Toys and Corduroys" and a deliberate melody gave "I Don't Believe in Ghosts" a pensive feel.

As the night progressed, though, Sheik's music grew more aggressive, from the pulsing harshness of "Rubbed Out" to the abrasive urgency of "Genius." A particularly grating version of Oasis's "Wonderwall" was incongruous with the rest of his set -- Sheik himself commented that he was "starting to feel like a bad cover band."

By contrast, opener David Poe's set was consistently mellow. His simple approach intensified the emotions in songs such as "Love Is Red" and even made a song about pornography sound like a lullaby. The highlight of Poe's set was a pair of songs performed with Sheik. Their obvious rapport -- not to mention the richness of their voices in harmony -- infused Poe's songs with warmth. The duo's strength is a sneak peek at things to come: The two plan to form a still-unnamed band next year.

-- Catherine P. Lewis