Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Christina Aguilera all grown up now

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        What a difference a year makes. On Aug. 11, 1999, Christina Aguilera was happy to be at Riverbend on the smallest Lilith Fair stage. Monday night, she owned the place.

        Last year's giggling little girl was replaced by a self-assured young woman in command of a five-man band, two singers, four dancers and a fancy stage set full of lighting effects and pyrotechnics.

        It was a teen-pop show in name only. The 19-year-old is the real deal, possessing a powerful voice with a wide range and a surprising amount of soul. Her rivals aren't lightweight teen queens Britney, Jessica or Hoku; they're Mariah, Celine and Whitney — and they better watch their backs.

        The evening opened like other teen-pop extravaganzas, as a mostly female crowd of around 8,500 (lots of “pleather” and leopard prints) had to sit through an awful 'NStreet Boys wannabe, Sygnature.

        Next up was a real band, Soul Decision, a six-man group from Vancouver that brought a refresh ing 1960s pop-rock sound a la the Young Rascals and the Association to the modern teen formula of pseudo R&B.

        Destiny's Child followed, and though the quartet lost two of its original members after releasing last year's The Writing's On the Wall, the group fielded a tight 45 minutes of modern R&B. Along with their No. 3 pop hit, “Jumpin' Jumpin,'” Destiny's Child, now a trio, worked though much of that second CD. But the roots of soul are in the church, and the best display of their vocal abilities came during a brief a cappella gospel medley.

        But the young, female crowd was there for Christina. She didn't disappoint, in a 75-minute show that opened with her first hit, “Genie In a Bottle.” She wore her hair in an I Dream of Jeannie Barbara Eden topknot.

        She moved through much of the rest of the CD — “Somebody's Somebody,” “So Emotional,” “When You Put Your Hands On Me,” “I Turn to You,” “A Love For All Seasons,” “Come On Over (All I Want is You)” and her encore, “What a Girl Wants.”

        Throughout, she held her own with the dancers while her voice took soulful liberties with the songs. But it was her two covers that really displayed her range. She opened the second half of her show tearing up Free's classic rocker “All Right Now.” Earlier, she'd reprised the R&B classic she sang at Lilith Fair, Etta James' trademark, “At Last.”

        Ms. Aguilera will be headlining arenas long after the Britneys have slid onto the nostalgia circuit.


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