We Refuse to Pun on the Name "Winehouse" ... No Matter How Tempting
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on May 4, 2007 3:47PM
It's never a good sign when a performer's pre-show prep includes stumbling in the street in search of non-existent paparazzi, dinner at Subway, and a trip to Walgreens for sweets (that you will later use to pad your set as giveaways between songs). It's an even worse sign when a backing band as talented as The Dap Kings are left with nothing much to do but play karaoke versions of radio hits. And if the back-up singers are more entertaining to watch (and listen to) than the main act, that's not too good either.
There are two ways to look at Amy Winehouse's show last night. One is from a populist perspective, and from that perspective one can't deny that the crowd ate up every little thing she did. Anticipation will do that to an audience. Most of the crowd probably knew very little about Winehouse other than she a) has a song on constant rotation on WXRT and b) she's British, and she's therefore cool. Plus, when a show is this hyped, most regular attendees will not allow themselves to see failure even when it's right in front of their eyes.
From a critical standpoint, she was just a train wreck. Delivery that was variably rushed and slow, listless tics meant to convey some sort of emotion, and an annoying tendency to try and pull off the "bad girl" act to mask insecurity and inexperience, all contributed to the delivery of a severly underwhelming performance. We imagine folks who saw her at SXSW earlier this year, and produced the buzz she rode into her sold-out Chicago show, saw a different performer in a smaller room. And maybe that was part of her problem. Had last night's show been at its original venue, Schubas, Winehouse might have fared better. She certainly doesn't yet have the charisma to command a room the size of The Vic.
We love her latest record, Back To Black, and are willing to admit that our disappointment is so vast because this was a performance we had been looking forward to for months. However, unlike some folks, we just can't justify Winehouse's failure to fulfill on her promised potential.