China Crisis, like a more famous C.C., is a pause that refreshes. In its Palace show Thursday, the young Liverpool quintet offered pleasant, catchy songs with a serviceably danceable beat. Most refreshing was the musicians' unassuming honesty and apparent disinterest in fashion. All you could ask for was a bit more nutritive value.

The problem with China Crisis in concert is similar to that of its recent album, "Flaunt the Imperfection," which provided most of the material for this show: Other than the obvious Steely Dan influence (stronger on the record, thanks to production by ex-Dan Walter Becker), little of the music leaves a lasting impression.

Tasty as they are, the songs lope along with little variety in tempo or dynamics. Even those introduced by the band as dance numbers differed only slightly from the rest. Still, standouts like "Black Man Ray," the current single "King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up, Wake Up)" and last year's "Working With Fire and Steel" bespeak both talent and intelligence.

Live, the band's appeal comes largely from its attitude. The show was completely devoid of pretension, and even the U2-like gesture of inviting fans on stage for the encores seemed totally uncalculated. There's also a spiritual undercurrent to the songs, suggesting that more substance could be forthcoming in what seems to be a promising future for the band.

Opening act A Drop in the Gray sounded beefier live than on its recent debut album. The songs revolve around the Duran Duran/Roxy Music axis, but the group is neither as vacuous as the former nor as intriguing as the latter.

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