If VH1 ever decides to expand into the country genre for its long-running “Storytellers” series, the cable channel should definitely sign up LeAnn Rimes. On Thursday night, during a highly satisfying and rare acoustic club show at House of Blues, the veteran singer was in a chatty mood.
“I usually only play like this at home in front of about 15 friends,” she admitted.
The sold out event was the first in Go Country 105/KKGO-FM’s monthly summer concert series at the Anaheim venue. It wasn’t difficult to discern real fans (acutely focused on every Rimes word) from those who just wanted to socialize (six drunken, obnoxious ladies caused trouble near the soundboard; where is HOB security when you need them?).
Lately, Rimes has concentrated on honing her acting chops (she co-stars with Burt Reynolds in made-for-TV movie “Reel Life,” scheduled to air on CMT in November), a new marriage (the Malibu nuptials to fellow actor/singer Eddie Cibrian took place this past April) and vacationing in Laguna Beach. And last month, Rimes began contributing insightful blog posts on leannrimesworld.com.
As for music, the 90-minute concert provided a chance to unveil selections from the Vince Gill-produced Lady and Gentlemen covers collection (now due in the fall) as well as an original album slated for summer 2012.
Opening with sultry new tune “Crazy Women,” that had a Miranda Lambert/Carrie Underwood attitude, Rimes was subtly backed by a trio that included an acoustic guitarist, a drummer on a cocktail kit/conga, plus an electric bassist thankfully placed low in the sound mix.
In case some people still think of Rimes as the little girl with a big voice, her attire helped put the notion to rest. Clad entirely in black: short jacket, lace cover-up, camisole and designer pumps, the svelte singer looked like a Victoria’s Secret model. Men hooted and hollered when she took off the jacket, waved it around and joked “that’ll end up on TMZ, for sure.”
Before doing twangy new kiss off song “You Ain’t Right” with a sassy, rapid-fire vocal delivery, Rimes qualified her “bad word” usage in the lyric by emphasizing age 30 isn’t too far away (she turns 29 in August).
Laid back arrangements suited the older material just fine and gave Rimes’ voice ample opportunities to shine. Prime examples included an elegant “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” (prefaced by a story about crying for hours at the music video shoot) and “Blue,” with its Django Rhinhardt-styled gypsy jazz vibe (the crowd enthusiastically sang along). Seated on a stool for a few numbers, Rimes sang “How Do I Live” with nuanced vocal runs.
A pivotal moment in the concert came during “What I Cannot Change,” which Rimes described as the kind of song “you write once in a lifetime; I honestly hope you find yourself in it.” The achingly beautiful ballad hit No. 1 as a dance remix and is from the last studio release (2007’s Family), where she co-penned everything except duets with Jon Bon Jovi and Reba McEntire.
Here in O.C., “Change” seamlessly transitioned into a cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” worked up by the band especially for this show. Rimes professed her admiration for the successful London female vocalist.
Equally moving was the slow-building current single “Give,” an inspiring message about love that soared live, and the quietly picturesque “Pretty Things,” concerning Rimes’ childhood memories of her mother.
There were also plenty of fun, uptempo moments, too: unreleased bluesy tune “Criminal” found her playfully singing about a bad boy; “Nothin’ Better to Do” and the version of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s “Good Hearted Woman” were both feisty as all get out.
Rimes returns to play the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona on Sept. 30 with Kellie Pickler and Gloriana. Tickets are $25-$140 and go on sale July 10 through Ticket Master.
LeAnn Rimes, House of Blues, Anaheim, June 30, 2011
Setlist: Crazy Women/You Ain’t Right/Something’s Gotta Give/Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way/Blue/Life Goes On/Good Hearted Woman/Can’t Fight the Moonlight/How Do I Live/What Have I Done/Criminal/What I Cannot Change/Someone Like You/Give/Pretty Things/Nothin’ Better to Do