Teens Take Bowl

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.

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