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Last Night: Macy Gray at Hard Rock Live

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Macy Gray

Hard Rock Live, Hollywood

August 14, 2007

Better Than: A Sideshow

Give Macy Gray her due. The woman's not just a one hit wonder even though it's her song "I Try" that brought most of the crowd out to the Hard Rock to see her.

Part chanteuse, part Las Vegas entertainer, Gray kicked off her 19-city tour in support of her new album "Big" with a rousing, rowdy 90-minute performance.

She's the musical conductor in "Macy Gray Starring In 'Big,' " a sideshow of sorts with all kinds of three-ring circus surprises including a coffin that preceded the song "6 Feet Under" and play money being tossed around by a cue-card holding roadie during "Treat Me Like Your Money." Meanwhile, the song "Oblivion" from her sophomore album "The id," a cacophonous circus tune on its own, had all the makings for a bridal dance at a Greek wedding.

With almost as many costume changes as a Cher show, Gray came out singing and swinging in the celebration song of a lover's departure "Finally Made Me Happy."

Backed by a tight eight-piece band that's heavy on percussions and keyboards, but featuring some very rocked out lead guitar and a smoking horn section, Gray told the crowd that she and the band traveled all the way from Los Angeles to Hollywood, Fla. on bicycles, because she knew the casino crowd would be gambling drinkers who knew how to party and dance.

The small, but devoted audience proved her right in the dance category, making the area just below the stage a gathering place for anyone who wanted to shake it.

What's always set the singer apart from any run-of-the-mill soul sister is her signature voice – an odd mix of Billie Holiday and Minnie Riperton, but her live act gives her a chance to display her eccentricities. At one point, she donned a pink power suit, put on a pimp hat and twirled a red cane. Step right up folks, as Macy Gray sings Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy."

The usually slow lullaby "Sweet Baby" (from "The id") got an injection of upbeat funk. And the signature hit "I Try" was infused with reggae undertones. The end of Gray's show wrapped it all up in a neat political statement. She intro'd a song written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1972, "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World."

And that was it. Gray took her bag of magic tricks, her power suit and pimp hat, and walked off stage with no encore. It was a Macy Gray live, on-stage movie that unspooled with a beginning, middle and an end. -- Michelle F. Solomon

Critics Notebook:

Random Detail: Macy's been making the rounds. In July, she was first in line to help launch Apple's iPhone at the Grove in Los Angeles. A week ago, she was at Paris Hilton's Malibu Beach Party (who knew they were friends?), and last night she was expected to spin some of her own music at SoBe's Prive.

By the way: The real shame of the night was that The Brand New Heavies didn't have more of a crowd as the opener. The pioneers of acid jazz and funk pulled out all the stops and it was good to see powerhouse front woman N'Dea Davenport back with the group. The surprise of the set? Heavies performing a funked up version of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army."

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