Rime and Reason

LeAnn Rimes

At the Chumash Casino, Thursday, April 13.

Reviewed by Brett Leigh Dicks

As LeAnn Rimes cavorted and twisted her way around the stage, raising her arms and clutching her heart, the cascade of hits that flowed freely and readily through the Chumash Casino were not restricted to her own considerable catalogue. Sure, she bellowed out her resounding breakthrough single “Blue” and delivered a vibrant rendition of “Can’t Fight the Moonlight,” but the singer also threw forth an intriguing selection of measured covers. Drawn from the songbooks of the likes of Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, and Grace Slick, old blended with new to present a cavalcade of musical conquests that spanned five decades.

It is probably no coincidence that the 23-year-old is drawn to songs from such audacious female vocal artists. In wandering something of a musical twilight zone — one not quite country, yet not strictly pop or rock either — Rimes relies upon her vocals to provide the bearing. With the instrumental execution of her songs tending toward the formulaic, it is Rimes’s vocal ability that provides the revelation. They ebb and flow according to the musical temperament — either resonating with force and gusto or sprinkling an essence of sweet saccharin across the room.

Opening with “Something’s Gotta Give,” from her latest album This Woman, the blending of weeping pedal steel, airy acoustics, and growling electric guitars set the night’s dominant tone. Rimes wore the casual country leaning of the composition comfortably and it is a musical elucidation that seemed a far better fit than the cumbersome dynamics of earlier songs like “Big Deal.” As the set progressed, the dynamics diversified. “Some People” and “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” gave cause for quiet reflection before Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” enthusiastically ended the set.

With the stage lights directed upon a lone pianist, showering him in blue radiance, a simple piano solo accompanied the reemergence of Rimes’s band. And when the respective players again converged, the familiar tones of “How Do I Live” were soon detectable. Rimes joined her colleagues on stage to seduce the gathered masses with her greatest musical success. But LeAnn Rimes decided that a more forthright closure to the evening’s proceedings was required and “Somebody to Love” supplied exactly that. With the audience rising to their feet, Rimes’s furious rendition of the Jefferson Airplane classic ensured they had every reason to remain there.

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