Concert review: Talented Carlton displays her raw talent at Canes with Ben Lee

    The House of Blues concert series brought Vanessa Carlton to a newly remodeled Canes venue Nov. 13. The renovations added to the enchanting evening with Carlton and her Aussie opener, Ben Lee. The audience was 90 percent female, and the venue was at 80 percent capacity. If it had been possible to give out these numbers before the show, perhaps a greater male population would have showed and been shocked to hear the sultry styling of one of the music industry’s freshest versions of the angered prodigal adolescent songstress.

    So why is the most talented of the newest group of young female songwriters, who has been called “”the answer to Britney,”” playing before a partially empty crowd at Canes? One would have to guess that some of her unsold tickets could be chalked up to anonymity. Despite appearances on “”Total Request Live,”” a good deal of people still can’t tell the difference between Carlton and artists like Avril Lavigne or Michelle Branch. In some instances, with some artists, this is no great tragedy, but Carlton’s talent, which came through so clearly Nov. 13, deserves attention.

    While Carlton probably won’t grace the cover of “”Teen People,”” she is a great deal more likely to receive a Grammy nomination than her counterparts. More interested in music than anything else, Carlton is rumored to have refused to dance in her music videos; surprising for a girl who was accepted into the American Academy of Ballet at 14.

    Instead of grouping her in the Branch category, think of Carlton as Fiona Apple, where she might be right now if she had a better piano teacher and a better therapist. While Carlton rocked with a full band for a good half of the night, she shined most brightly when she only shared the stage with the candles lit on her piano. Amid her few airplay songs were a number of slow ballads that were commanding enough as piano compositions without the addition of what can only be described as a raw and soaring vocal talent.

    This is not to say that Carlton put the audience to sleep. In fact, amid somewhat boring tales of her college life before stardom, she managed to throw in a Rolling Stones cover song. While the audience was left to wonder how such beautiful music could be inspired by a drunken college boy tickling Carlton’s thigh after hearing her sing one night, they were not surprised when she started one of her final songs with, “”I wrote this song with tears streaming down my face.””

    The evening’s most stirring rendition was “”Ordinary Day,”” which displays her vocal talent better than most of her songs, and provides the listener with a good survey of Carlton’s own melodic incarnations.

    The album that she is promoting, “”Be Not Nobody,”” has a dark and intelligent side that isn’t heard by “”TRL””-watchers. While her radio-friendly songs tend to sound like what she referred to at her show as love songs written by people who aren’t in love, there is a great deal of substance to this Pennsylvania native. It remains to be seen if Carlton will follow her predecessors in releasing a lackluster sophomore album, or continue to demand an audience until her name is mentioned among the greats. Regardless, her concert offered an enchanting look at a young genius who is still more familiar with her heart and the piano than she is with fame.

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