Concert review: Saving a night from controversy

A lot has changed for Monique Powell in the last 10 years.

She's gotten married, undergone throat surgery and formed a new band under a former name, Save Ferris. The latter has sparked controversy in the recent months for the '90s ska singer, as she labeled the show a 10-year "reunion" when the other past members claimed they were not invited and filed a lawsuit.

Still, despite naysayers, Powell performed to a decently filled Pacific Amphitheatre on Saturday night, following lively sets by the Originalites and the English Beat.

Dressed in a white fur coat, strapless animal print dress and faded red curly wig, Powell emerged onto the stage to open the show with "Spam."

As Powell smiled and moved all about the stage, the crowd danced as much as they could while confined to the space of the venue's narrow aisles.

It was strange having a ska show with no open dance floor, but that didn't sway the crowd from moving to songs like "Everything I Want to Be" and "The World Is New." And Powell took notice.

"Look at that guy dancing on top of his chair!" she said.

While Powell was vivacious throughout the set, some aspects of the concert did seem a bit askew.

Powell's voice was raspier at times than in the past and more nasally at others, either due to being out of practice or from her recent surgery. During "Let Me In," the night's only ballad, her notes sounded flat. Lyrics to a few songs were also written on some pieces of paper near her microphone stand.

As well, Powell's new backing band, whose seven members each looked as if they were young enough to just barely remember Save Ferris' heyday, lacked chemistry and rarely interacted with each other. They were also out of sync with Powell at times, particularly during "Goodbye," in which they played the song faster than the original recording, leaving Powell obviously trying to catch up.

Still, the show did have its highlights, like the dozens of Save Ferris beach balls tossed into the crowd during "Superspy" and a cover of the Isley Brothers' "Shout."

As Powell and company left the stage, the crowd chanted for an encore, rumbling seats with their palms and feet.

When the band finally came back out, Powell thanked her fans for supporting her.

"This is, I think, the biggest-selling headlining show Save Ferris has ever played," she said, dressed in a champagne-colored dress, her third costume change of the evening. "If not, it's definitely the best one because you guys are the best."

As the night drew to a close, it was obvious that Powell still possessed the same stage presence she had in the '90s. She has not yet announced whether any more Save Ferris shows are in the books, but if she does perform again, perhaps she should play under her own name to avoid another controversy.

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