Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
hy was this night different from most other nights for Lauren Alaina? For starters, instead of opening in arenas for Blake Shelton, which she's been doing lately, she headlined her own show at a very small, intimate club.
That afforded her the chance to stretch out musically and otherwise in a warm, engaging 70-minute set from the country pop singer.
Alaina clearly enjoyed herself on stage, joking around a lot (so much so that she talked about her next career being a comedienne) in a relaxed, uncanned way.
But ultimately, the sold-out crowd was there to hear music. Like many of her contemporaries, Alaina could not be accused of being hard-core country. The American Idol runner-up in 2011 is more so a pop artist with a few country touches. One of the best songs was the honey-soaked delivery of "Tupelo."
And while her reading of her number one song with Kane Brown (he was not in the house, of course, but not so far away in Manchester, N.H. for his own gig), "What Ifs," held its own, the song has little to do with country music.
Alaina has the vocal pipes. That was no problem, for example, in her closing song to the regular set, "Road Less Traveled," a song she said "changed my life." The song talks of going one's own way and not letting others define you. Alaina not only made that clear in the lyrics, but in introducing the song by saying she had an eating disorder for six years. "I didn't love myself," she offered was the problem.
In Alaina's hands, the song was buoyant, upbeat and uplifting.
The setting enabled Alaina to interact with the crowd, which would be far more problematic on the big stage. Thus, James picked out from the crowd to dance a bit with Alaina on "Next Boyfriend." James was no newbie either as Alaina said her fan was up there for the third or fourth time to dance.
And then there was the trio of young women from Toronto at the lip of the stage, who Alaina lamented would not see anything different from her on this evening. Why? Because one of them had seen her a reported 50 times even though she had not played Canada before last year.
Throw in the overt emotion displayed by Alaina, who said with tears in a pin drop quiet moment how "last year was the hardest year of my life." She said she was glad to be at the gig to raise money for a charity helping cancer patients because her stepfather died this past fall from cancer.
Alaina ended with a medley, easily getting the crowd to belt out the lyrics for snippets of "Man I Feel Like a Woman," (Shania Twain) "Single Ladies," (Beyonce) "Wide Open Spaces" (Dixie Chicks), "Fancy" (Reba McEntire) and more before ending with "Last Name." (Carrie Underwood). These songs and artists may well have underscored Alaina's musical roots - at times country flavored, pop, a bit soulful.
In this setting, Alaina clearly enjoyed the difference.