Anne Murray proved Sunday night at the Greek Theatre how important it is for singers to recognize their strengths--and also to accept their limitations.
Murray is one of the most distinctive vocalists in pop music: Her wonderfully lived-in voice--which blends purity and clarity with a touch of grit and earthiness--made the pop and country songs that dominated her set completely convincing.
But Murray is not Madonna. And when she wears a garish sweat shirt and tight latex shorts and sings glossy Eurodisco-style songs--as she did at the Greek--she is utterly un convincing. Those tacky, glitzy pieces cheapened the show and undermined the gimmick-free authenticity that has always been at the heart of the singer's appeal. They also called into question Murray's judgement: Why on earth if you can just open your mouth and be Anne Murray would you go out of your way to sound like Laura Branigan?
The answer, of course, is that the 41-year-old Canadian is trying to compete with a new generation of female singers. But Murray errs in competing on their turf. She's not going to be Stacey Q no matter how hard she tries.
The solution for Murray is to continue to do what she does best, while striving to keep her sound fresh. And Sunday's show was a reminder that--discounting the mock-rock disco pieces--Murray has done a good job of keeping up with the times. Such '80s selections as "A Little Good News" have more of a dramatic edge than her pastoral, post-folkie '70s hits like "Danny's Song." But tinkering with edge and attitude are one thing; dropping in loads of glitz and flash are another.
After unsuccessfully courting the MTV crowd with her last album, Murray had the good sense to return to what she does best on her new LP, appropriately titled "As I Am." She should do the same thing in concert.