Black Music Matters Festival

Lisa Marie Presley comes out from under the shadow

Paradise, Boston, May 8, 2005

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - The curiosity factor doubtlessly is a lot less for Lisa Marie Presley the second time around. Not surprisingly, when she released "To Whom It May Concern" two years ago, the lone child of Elvis was facing a tough audience and one helluva hill to climb.

And perhaps because that album showed the spunky Presley, now 37, had some musical chops and was not cashing in on her name (though, of course, she certainly does not need any more money), she is taken more seriously as an artist.

Her second disc, "Now What," showcases Presley as a melodic rocker with a growly voice, perhaps somewhat akin to Avril Lavigne.

But technology can perform wonders in a studio, so the question was whether Presley is up to snuff in concert.

For the most part, Presley is. She sings fairly well, though she would not be accused of being a great singer. She certainly puts the songs across with attitude - a great part of Presley's persona, and that is meant as a compliment - and emotion. Yet, it would have been better had her voice been amped up higher as it was a bit lost on harder-edged songs. Presley also often was ably helped by two musicians lending backing vocals, always to good effect.

Presley turned in two very strong covers, including Don Henley's condemnation of media coverage, "Dirty Laundry," a perfect song for her to sing given the decades of tabloid and newspaper coverage that her family has received. Presley slowed the song, her current single, down, giving it her own vision.

And she closed the 70-minute set, which could have been longer, with a cover of The Ramones' "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow." On "Now What," the song is a hidden track, closing the disc. Live, Presley also got to the heart of the song, and it was interesting to hear the song sung from a female perspective in contrast to Joey Ramone.

Presley played a chunk of songs from the new disc. The songs tend to be good, not great. Maybe that will come with time. As for the Avril comparison, Presley certainly is not in Lavigne's class when it comes to songwriting.

She clearly isn't afraid to put her feelings out there either as "Raven" is about her relationship with her mother, which at one time was very bad. Presley sang, "Hold your head up high/I know that I've been ruthless." Not exactly tame stuff.

In fact, someone from the audience tried calling Presley's mother before the song started, but she wasn't at home or on her cell phone, preventing Priscilla from hearing the song live for the first time ever.

Lisa Marie also is no diva when it comes to her stage presence. While perhaps a tinge shy, she certainly engaged the audience and presented a friendly, extremely appreciative demeanor.

One almost sensed that Presley was surprised with the very favorable reaction from the crowd of 600, close to a sellout.

But Presley has worked on her career, taking it seriously. She doubtlessly will never quite come out from under the giant shadow of her father, even though she clearly has musical talent. With a large target on her back, Lisa Marie Presley deserves all the credit for trying to forge her own musical identity.