Moore trades bubblegum for intelligent folk pop
Posted: Oct. 1, 2007
Three years ago, with her pop princess days clearly behind her, Epic Records
decided to drop Mandy Moore.
One would think Moore wouldn't have particularly cared. As a teen queen she
was never more than a wholesome but minor alternative to Britney, Christina
More to the point, she had gone on to become a legitimate movie star and one
who spoke of her early records with open disdain. In fact, she was quoted as
saying she wished she could give everyone who had bought one a refund.
So it's kind of a surprise that, at 23, Mandy Moore has resurfaced as a
recording artist. Indeed, she's on her very first tour, which brought her to
the Pabst Theater on Sunday night.
More surprising yet, her new music is a kind of intelligent, folk pop, written
with respectable collaborators like The Weepies, alt-country writer Lori
McKenna and Rachael Yamagata. Stranger yet, there's been a quiet but distinct
shift of critical support in her direction.
It's a little hard to say what all that means quite yet. The new album, "Wild
Hope," hasn't been a huge hit, and while she drew a respectable crowd at the
Pabst, most of the attendees looked to be college-age girls who might have
bought "Candy" as preteens back in the '90s. So whether they were there out of
nostalgia or a genuine enthusiasm for the new music is hard to say.
The same sweet, unaffected qualities that have made Moore so disarming on the
movie screen clearly also work to her advantage on stage.
Before the first song was over, the pit in front of the stage was full of fans
who came to dance or just gawk. To her credit, she seemed genuinely flattered
and surprised by the response.
Musically, she's clearly stepped up to another level. The new songs are
emotionally nuanced and polished.
"Adore Her" is an invitation to love an eccentric girl with a surprise twist
of vulnerability at the end. "Nothing That You Are" is a tart dismissal of a
Moore also shows reliable good taste with her occasional cover. "Looking
Forward" is a new song about using selective memory to retain the best things
in a former relationship, and it segued into an unlikely but surprisingly
successful medley with Cat Stevens' "Moon Shadow."
She followed that a few songs later with Joni Mitchell's "Help Me." She
clearly has good instincts about material. If she continues like this, Moore
shouldn't need to worry about giving anybody a refund.
She also has good taste in support acts.
Ben Lee, who preceded her, is a witty and deft troubadour who feels like a
youthful mix of Woody Allen and Art Garfunkel. He clearly charmed the crowd
and had them singing along.
Opener Chris Stills is the son of Stephen Stills, and there's a definite
family resemblance both physically and musically. He's clearly inherited some
of his dad's guitar chops, although the boisterous admiration of some of the
ladies up front did seem to rattle him slightly.