On the back cover of Patti Rothberg’s new debut album, “Between the 1 and the 9,” the New York singer is portrayed as different characters--a punk, a hippie, a bride and so on. The series of images reflects the multiple musical personalities on display, but can also be taken as an allusion to the tough job facing Rothberg: to be more than a face in the crowd of new female rockers.
At the Viper Room on Tuesday, Rothberg accomplished that task to some extent. Here she was not just another Alanis, Joan or Ani. Instead, looking a bit uneasy in front of an industry-heavy crowd and singing with a raspy, obviously strained voice, she at various times hinted at Stevie (Nicks), Suzi (Quatro) and Ann (Wilson, of Heart).
The odd ‘70s vibe extended from her retro leather cap to the Aerosmith, Journey and even Marshall Tucker licks poking through the music played by her and her four-man band. Recasting the album’s alterna-sampler patchwork as quasi-arena-rock--spiced by Rothberg’s confident lead guitar work and Adam McDougal’s organ--helped in terms of consistency, but failed to establish a clear artistic identity.
At the same time, the musical context seemed to tip the thematic scale from the ‘90s-ish, irony-laden self-analysis of “Treat Me Like Dirt” to the more trite sentiments of the Heart-like ballad “It’s Alright.”
While that moves her apart from the pack, it’s a step in the wrong direction.