Macy Gray with Lamya at the Guvernment, March 18. Tickets: $32.50. Attendance: 800. Rating: NNN
Macy Gray has a great voice and a groovy wardrobe, not to mention one hell of a hairdo. Her band is energetic and funky, and her tunes are catchy, clever and cool enough. Unfortunately, Macy Gray the person is irritating in concert. Maybe it's the Mick Jagger pout, the stomping around and posturing or the incoherent rantings about sex.
I'm not sure. But I do know that it got to a point last Tuesday night, while standing in a sea of patchouli-wearing, Pottery Barn-shopping, cheese- eating vegetarian urban neo-hippies, where if she called them "sexy people" one more time I thought I was going to lose my shit.
She launched her set with Relating To A Psychopath from 2001's The Id, then over the next hour and a half showcased tunes from that second album, including the fabulously titled Gimme All Your Lovin' Or I Will Kill You, and others from her 1999 debut, On How Life Is. She saved I Try for the encore, along with When I See You from the upcoming The Trouble With Being Myself.
It was some pretty good soul, funk and R&B. The seven-piece band, with a scratch DJ and trumpet, was great, funking out into little snippets of tunes like Alabama 3's Woke Up This Morning (better known as the theme from The Sopranos), Come Together and Rapture, but after an hour all the tunes start sounding alike.
There was a moment when everyone including Gray broke into The All In The Family theme with altered lyrics, substituting "Didn't need to masturbate" for "Didn't need no welfare state," and, alas, therein we find yet more of the icky contrivance that permeated the whole show.
During Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak, Gray yelled stuff like, "Say sex! Say more sex!," then "I'm so fucking beautiful! Especially when I take my clothes off!"and proceeded to encourage the audience to remove their clothes.
Oh god, no, I prayed. Please no. A few shirts flew into the air, but thank goodness most didn't comply. Gray herself pulled down her pants for a few seconds. But I couldn't tell whether we could see her peepee, and was grateful. Gray also jacked off the mike stand and led the audience in a celebration of "the dick." Yeah, yeah. We get it. You like sex.
I'm not opposed to people exposing themselves, but this was about as appealing as a park flasher -- too desperate, and totally without the humour required to pull it off.
It's a shame, really, because without the whole forced cheesy exhibitionism thing it could have been an all right show.
Next day, it wasn't anything by Macy Gray running through my head, but Empires (Bring Me Men), by opener Lamya. The trained opera singer played with only a bassist, with the rest -- beats, electronics and all -- on tape. If you haven't heard her already, which you may have done on Soul II Soul's Vol. II: A New Decade and Vol. V: Believe, she's a sort of ethereal R&B/world-beat character with Björk-type orchestration. She's also played with David Bowie, James Brown, Duran Duran and Anjelique Kidjo.
Definitely worth checking out.