Friday, July 2, 2004

Simpson puts stage smarts on display

Concert review

By Dustin J. Seibert
Enquirer Staff Writer

A warning for you kids: The MTV generation may be claiming your folks.

Amid the pleated skirts and designer handbags in the predominantly teenage female crowd at Wednesday's Jessica Simpson Reality Tour concert at Riverbend Music Center, Dale and Carol Schubleiler stuck out like, well, grownups at a Jessica Simpson concert.

Dale, 61, of Indian Hill, says that he and his wife got hooked on Simpson through MTV's Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, the reality show starring the singer and her husband, singer and Cincinnati native Nick Lachey. Oddly, their 25-year-old daughter is not nearly as into Simpson as they are.

"Nick and Jessica are both extremely talented," he said. "I think (Jessica) has a beautiful voice."

It's doubtful that Simpson, 23, disappointed the Schubleilers or the 4,100 other fans at the show, as the Texas native was in rare form, hitting the stage from a platform that rose to the top of a dual staircase, and kicking off the one-hour concert with "I Think I'm In Love With You," from her 1999 debut, Sweet Kisses.

Wearing a pink flapper dress, Simpson promised the crowd that she was "100 percent better" following a reported kidney infection that hospitalized her last week, causing the cancellation of two shows.

She switched into a flowing white dress for her current single, a cover of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away," set to a backdrop of clouds on the "Jess TV" big screens behind her. Earlier in the show, the screens displayed images of U.S. troops as Simpson sang "I Have Loved You," dedicated to the family of Keith Matthew Maupin.

Honest, sweet sounds

Simpson did her best to please the fans that fell in love with the quirky, honest version of the songbird portrayed on Newlyweds.

During "Underneath," she stopped mid-wail to acknowledge a fireworks blast in the distance, looking confused and staring at her microphone, then resuming the song before stopping again to respond to the many T-shirts and signs making fun of her infamous "Chicken of the Sea" blunder on the MTV show. Yelling, "I know it's fish!" Simpson flashed her toothy smile and moved right into the upbeat pop song "Irresistible."

Simpson's reliance on her high-octane voice and bubbly personality set her apart from some of her pop counterparts. Her shows featured no pyrotechnics or funky choreography, just her butter-melting octave range over a smooth six-piece band and two backup singers.

The evening's high note was a goosebump-inducing rendition of British crooner Robbie Williams' "Angels," during which Simpson's dramatic singing and vocal projection mesmerized the crowd.

Nick stays offstage

The only disappointment of the evening came before "Underneath," when Simpson announced that hubby Lachey was in the house, but that he would not join her on stage.

She tested her hubby's hometown crowd (and elicited a few boos) when she swallowed a bug in the midst of a high note on "Sweetest Sin" and likened it to Skyline chili. But showbiz pro Simpson made up for it by making a fake departure and returning draped in Reds paraphernalia to conclude her set with a soaring rendition of "With You."


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