VIVIAN GREEN at Revival, February 7. Tickets: $25. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Looking around at the blissed-out couples locked in grinding embraces throughout Vivian Green's sold-out show at the candlelit Revival last Friday night, you couldn't be blamed for thinking you got your dates screwed up. A week later and the room could've been celebrating Valentine's Day with a soundtrack of Green's sultry love-struck neo-soul tunes.
With or without the Hallmark seal of approval, the Philly crooner was hell-bent on bringing her hackneyed message of love to the smitten throngs. No surprise there, since her debut disc was called A Love Story. To be fair, the slinky bass-driven shimmer of Philly soul lends itself to romantic notions. Green's problems stem from the fact that her hooks are tired and her sentiments even staler.
The teeny-tiny dynamo bounced onstage with a feel-good grin, marvelling at the sold-out room ("I feel like nobody knows who I am!") before explaining her musical inspiration with a Stuart Smalley meditation on "the love I lost and the love I gained later on, and loving myself in the process."
The walls of couples nodded knowingly and clutched each other even tighter.
Green showed off her surprisingly tough alto in an efficient set of indistinguishable ditties running the gamut from sexy to sappy to sorrowful, all based on generic R&B riffs.
The only way to tell the tunes apart was by deciphering which page of the Soul Lyric Cliché book (and I ain't talkin' Talking Book) she'd cribbed from. We got Good Lovin' 101 (the Bootylicious-esque "I just gotta have it / I'm a fanatic" hook of Fanatic). Or insipid daily affirmations as in Wishful Thinking's (Green wants world peace and a man who'll treat her right). And she threw in a token empowered-woman anthem (No Sitting By The Phone) for good measure.
If Green had a particularly stellar voice she could be forgiven the triteness. But baby got her start singing backing vocals for the far-superior Jill Scott, and she still has the pleasant but personality-free pipes of, well, a backup singer.
She simply does not have the power to silence a room with her songs.