Amy Macdonald, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Thursday 28 October 2010
"Ordinary Life" is a somewhat ironic choice of opener for Amy Macdonald. The Glaswegian sings: "I don't care about the spotlight" in a voice that matches Dolores O'Riordan for stridency and adds KT Tunstall's huskiness. Amy, there is a spotlight 40 feet above your head, pointing right at you. It is not the only odd moment in a slick but ultimately underwhelming set.
Macdonald, a trouper at 23, reckons her success is down to relentless touring. Her 2007 debut album, This is the Life, reached No 1 during the post-Christmas sales lull.
She has also made a huge impact across Europe, if at the cost of falling victim to second-album syndrome. This year's A Curious Thing failed to build on earlier success and tonight we hear why. As a teenager, Macdonald wrote the vacuous "Let's Start a Band". Her new view of life on the road, "No Roots", suffers from a similar lack of insight.
More engaging are anecdotes of bizarre experiences on her travels, such as performing a dig at the cult of celebrity, "This Pretty Face", at a Swiss beauty pageant. Macdonald's long-standing band, meanwhile, pull the requisite rock shapes while they pilfer The Strokes' minimal riffs and The Killers' new wave-country mix, without disturbing the songs' strident, cod-Celtic anthemic drive. For this London date, they are joined by a string octet who pour sugary gloop over Macdonald's disdain until they add needed urgency to "Don't Tell Me It's Over".
They also enliven the mannered mayhem that closes the otherwise sweetly soulful "This is What Happiness Means to Me". An odds and sods encore features Macdonald solo on a brave "Born To Run" and a Soccer AM presenter gamely adding trad-jazz clarinet to "Love Love".
It is a generous evening, then, though one that fails to disguise the lameness of Macdonald's current writing – a curious thing, indeed.
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