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Come As You May Concert Reviews

Ottawa, ON - Festival Plaza
July 14, 2004
Courtesy of the Ottawa Sun
OTTAWA -- Is this the Bluesfest or a Euro-Cup party?

That was the question that kept popping into my head last night as Canadian pop diva -- and Euro-Cup anthem singer -- Nelly Furtado kept a crowd of 17,858 dancing partyers pumped up at Festival Plaza.

Fresh from her gala set last weekend at the Prince's Royal Trust concert at Albert Hall, Furtado breezed through a two-hour set of pop with a decidedly European flavour.

The singer, touring her latest album Folklore, created a club-like atmosphere, with a heavily layered and produced sound from a huge band featuring live DJ, processed guitars, keyboards, bass and back-up singers who doubled as cheerleaders.

The crowd was a decidedly young one, with no interest in the blues per se -- they just wanted to dance with Nelly. And they did, as she opened with One Trick Pony, Explode, Cry and Fresh From the Boat.

Soundwise, Furtado was on top of her game, with a musical fingerprint that's all hers, a fusion of hip-hip, pop, and Euro-disco with a little Portuguese and English rap thrown in to spice things up.

The crowd swelled visibly when she broke into a sweet, plaintive chorus of I'm Like a Bird, her first hit from her debut album Whoa Nelly.

Then, there was a massive soccer-style cheer for the Euro-Cup anthem Forca before closing with Hey Man and her final encore Powerless.

But in the end, despite all the hand-waving and all the musical muscle, the gig was a relatively colourless and unconvincing event, on-stage.

From the board, there was little to complain about.

But for Joe and Jill fan, Furtado's show relied too much on electronica, with a polished pop sound that verged on becoming robotic.

At times, I got the impression that she was tearing through the set, either to keep the music rolling or to avoid any real concert back-and-forthing with the audience, saying little more than the occasional "Thanks" and the odd "C'mon, sing along, I know you know this one."

Opening for Furtado were Toronto soulsters Jacksoul.

The band treated a sparse but funky crowd to a down-and-dirty set of '70s soul with Haydain Neale doing a sexually healing tribute to the sound of his Motown heroes Al Green, Marvin Gaye and Prince from the new Resurrected album.

But for real funky blues, no one compared to the former street musician Chris Whitley, who turned in a powerfully dramatic solo performance on the Black Sheep stage.

Whitley, who got his big break when Canadian super-producer Daniel Lanois discovered him busking on a sidewalk, proved a ghostly image both physically in performance and in song, stamping out a drumbeat with his foot while accompanying himself with a steel blues guitar.

Whitley proved that when the Bluesfest sticks with the blues, no one does it better.
Toronto, ON - Molson Amphitheatre
July 15, 2004
Courtesy of JAM! Music
TORONTO -- In 2001, singer Nelly Furtado burst onto the scene with a diverse blend of hip-hop, pop and Latin sounds.

By the time she bounced on-stage to "One Trick Pony" at the Molson Amphitheatre last night, the Toronto-based songbird was out to demonstrate how much she's stretched her vocal talent and choice of styles since her debut album, "Whoa Nelly!"

Touring in support of 2003's "Folklore," her funkadelic opener was followed by the rock-tinged "Explode" in which she picked up the electric guitar.

Backed by a full band, backup singer and DJ, "Fresh Off The Boat" came next and found the singer traversing the stage waving and smiling at her fans.

But if songs like "Try" were meant to get the crowd going, tracks like the introspective "Picture Perfect" were there to rebel against the pop-star image Furtado has fashioned for herself.

And while she managed to sing in compassionate tones on her smash-hit "I'm Like A Bird," Furtado made sure fans knew that this show was all about mixing old-school simplicity with Latin grooves and hip-hop beats.

"Party" had a throng of teenyboppers dancing in the aisles. Saying she wanted to see how "Toronto dances," the singer invited some lucky fans to join her onstage to shake themselves to a musical medley that sampled R & B and Latin.

But the loudest screams came during Furtado's celebratory "Forca."

Portuguese flags were being waved about in total abandon and beach balls were being thrown around near the front while the crowd gladly helped sing the chorus.

"Powerless (Say What You Want)" closed the 75-minute show in what amounted to a carnival of energy and new-age party music.

DJ Lal and Juno-nominated Shaye opened the show.

After a brief set from Lal, East Coast-based trio Shaye, comprised of Kim Stockwood, Damhnait Doyle and Tara McLean, matched a multi-layered sound with a strong vocal performance.

Whether trying to rock out on tracks like "On And On," or attempting to evoke the broken musical landscape from which they were born on "How The West Was Won," Shaye proved to be a band Canadians should listen for.