Ashlee Simpson, with Ashley Parker Angel and the Veronicas
At the Santa Barbara Bowl, Monday, June 5.
Reviewed by Charles Donelan
Lounging on a riser at the front edge of the stage in head-to-toe blonde rockstar white, Ashlee Simpson looked every bit the pop princess as she told the audience “I love you guys!” before launching into “Autobiography,” just one of the hits from the first of her two albums. The Santa Barbara Bowl made an ideal opening-night venue for the big national tour that Ashlee is on, and she has every reason to be happy. She’s as interesting musically as anyone in the pop mainstream right now, and she still sells like crazy. Listen to “L.O.V.E.,” her latest single, and see if it isn’t everything that M.I.A.’s “Arular” was cracked up to be last year.
Simpson was joined by two hot up-and-coming acts from her pop-rock neighborhood — the Veronicas and Ashley Parker Angel. The Veronicas are two neo-new wave singers from Australia, fronted by 21-year-old twins Jess and Lisa Origliasso. Lisa, the one in the white skirt, did most of the talking, while Jess — the one in the skinny pants — played some guitar, but most of what these two girls do is sing. They had the kids down front screaming for “Heavily Broken,” an acoustic ballad, and the adults in the preferred seats clapping for their whole set. The Veronicas combine the stripped-down, black-and-white sound of punk new wave with the vocal sophistication and grit of soul. It’s a great mix, and they are sure to gain many fans on this tour.
Coming on before big Ashlee Simpson is a challenge for Ashley Parker Angel, formerly of O-town, but little Ash is up for it. He wants people to go on his myspace.com page to pick the next single from his album, which “just dropped.” If you don’t want to hear about myspace.com or TRL, you shouldn’t be reading about this show, K?
The Bowl could show pictures of Ashlee Simpson’s gorgeous three-tiered set as evidence of what brilliant things can be done with their large stage. Performing alternately on the risers at either end, in the center, or on the stairs leading to her balcony, Simpson was all intimacy. When she went to the balcony at the top of the structure, as she did for several big numbers, including “Shadows,” her image was doubled on the screen behind her and the total effect was great: dazzling, but still passionate — just what a rock show should be. The rest of the summer can do what it wants. At the Bowl, June belongs to the kids.