Pop Reviews : Donny Osmond Plays Game by the New Rules

Donny Osmond is back, but only to spout pop cliches that are more up-to-date.

Osmond, now 30, hasn't put out a record in the United States since the late 1970s. But the Irvine resident has a new deal with Virgin Records (so far for release only in England) and a new five-man band that he's breaking in closer to home.

Osmond's early show Monday night at the Crazy Horse Steak House in Santa Ana was earnest, reasonably proficient and utterly formulaic. In keeping with his comeback hopes, Osmond rehashed the slick pop sounds of the '80s rather than the cute, middle-of-the-road fodder that made him a teeny-bopper idol through his teens--and put any real rock credibility out of his reach. If nothing else, Osmond's 75-minute show indicated that he's capable of playing the game according to its current rules.

Osmond tried to assume a few of the trappings of a real rocker, appearing in a leather jacket and surrounding himself with players who mostly sported a scruffy, long-haired look. To his credit, though, he didn't try to break with his past by assuming an artificially hip persona.

Osmond's enthusiastic audience, made up mostly of young women who may have come down with their first case of puppy love watching him on television years ago, called out repeatedly for old favorites. He obliged with "Go Away Little Girl," but otherwise stayed with his new songs.

Called back for an encore, Osmond made an ill-advised nod to the past by coaxing his sister, Marie, on stage to sing their old TV show theme. "I'm a little bit country," sang Marie. "I'm a little bit rock 'n' roll," answered Donny. He'll probably never be more than that, either.

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