During her show at the House of Blues on Wednesday, Des'ree recounted her UNICEF-sponsored introduction to the plight of the world's disadvantaged children, an experience she described as "distressing but inspiring."
The singer's admonition to her audience to find time for such causes typified the noble sentiments that pervade her music, but the song that followed underscored Des'ree's inability to make that music express distress, inspiration or any other vivid feelings.
Des'ree, an Englishwoman of West Indian descent whose "You Gotta Be" is a Top 10 hit, has a warm, engaging alto voice and a musical vision that stops at pleasant. As on her current album "I Ain't Movin'," Des'ree and her five musicians played a progressive-flavored blend of soul, pop and folk that bubbled along happily, far removed from any emotional complexities. Combine that tepidity with Des'ree's starry-eyed idealism--she responds to such meaty issues as pride of heritage with peace-and-love cliches--and you have an artist who bridges the gap between Sade and Melanie.
Despite the blandness, her audience responded strongly to her anthems of affirmation. And at least Des'ree wasn't on automatic pilot--she seemed alive to the moment, reacting to both the dance-floor crowd's positive feedback and the incessant chattering from the club's bar area.