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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lisa Marie Presley: Back in Action

Monday night at Philadelphia’s World Café Live venue, Lisa Marie Presley took the stage for what she termed her first concert in seven years. And despite being the daughter of Elvis and having what might minimally be described as a colorful background, when the music starts such aspects are irrelevant.

The concert was a late addition as the first stop on a brief tour, the set list focusing squarely on her new album Storm and Grace. Generating a growing number of positive reviews for its diversion from rock to a rootsier, organic feel, the album’s shift in approach matches well with Lisa Marie’s voice. That carried over into live performance.

Presley is not a belter or a stunt singer, but an effective communicator with a matter-of-fact delivery that still conveys emotional content. She’s closer to Stevie Nicks than Adele, but it works well in a direct, no-frills way. Sometimes all you want is to get the point across.

Presley's band – husband Michael Lockwood on guitar, backed with keyboards, drums, bass and the very talented multi-instrumentalist Doug Pettibone – ably built the right musical atmosphere. Pettibone was particularly impressive, not surprising considering his long stint with Lucinda Williams and sessions with everyone from Mark Knopfler to Keith Richards. Meanwhile, Lockwood deployed a different guitar on just about every song – perhaps indicative of the family financial resources.

If there was any flaw with the set, it was that Lisa Marie initially seemed to have not considered that she was going to have to interact with a live audience between songs. That led to some awkward silences or exchanges with the more vocal members of the crowd that ran along the lines of, “We love you, Lisa Marie” followed by a “Well, I love you, too” return.

“I need to get my stage legs back,” Presley noted early in the 50-minute set. But by the end of the concert, she had done just that, warming to the crowd and ably demonstrating that she deserves to be known on musical merit alone.

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