The Fox Theatre is wooden and open, with levels and standing balconies, and a wooden bar in the back. It’s small and private and smack in downtown. I came in to it to Serena Ryder wailing like that train in the distance, a running smokestack haunting and lonely in the Canadian wilderness, sometimes harmonizing and sometimes screeching off the tracks. Her hair is chunky and untamed. All in all she’s independent and Wild Wild West chunk-streaked with French punk drama singing into the wind.
Serena hits some very well rounded notes, she tosses out some well-rounded lines. Her is heavily punctuated and makes “heh heh heh” precisely onomatopoeic as it nips obnoxiously after her Lucky Strike voice. It would do well in an SNL skit. Despite the laugh, the lights flash purple on her black spanks and her dress mushrooms, reflections of her visit to Paris. She sweeps you into the atmosphere of a New Age bookstore with heavy incense on a flame behind her that creates a mood for the tarot cards at her merch table. Serena is a magnificent choice of tourmate for Howie Day because her fatality and cynicism fits the many pockets of hurt singles that are waiting for him to tell them how it was. But this is all I can really say for Serena Ryder because, although she was happy to talk and I could have had my palm read in the meantime, I opted for Howie Day and left Serena’s time slot free for an infatuated groupie.
It’s not that I object to mainstream pop, it’s that mainstream pop crowd tends to draw a mainstream crowd, most of whom were drunk or at least buzzed by the time Howie Day stole the stage. It was a party of tipsy, nicotine-coated Michaels, Kellies, and Andies from The Office, with Ryan up at the front leading them on in a theme song – every person in that audience was five, ten, fifteen years older than me, and it seemed a given that either Collide or She Says had carried them through every deep water in their lives.
But of course he would be absolutely charming. Howie Day is the boy next door… the one that hooked up with Britney Spears while they were in in rehab. These days, he is taming the tiger and his new album, Sound the Alarm, is a collection of reflections pondering life’s pathways. Day says that represents “the end of one era and the start of another.” Despite the new leaves, he’s still the same sweet, sensitive artist that attracted Britney.
The boyish smile speaks camaraderie: the man is good with a crowd, and Day is a master at packaging mainstream sentiment honestly and humbly. I could practically float on the vibe he evoked in all of those pre-midlife crisis victims. “Everyone loves to love a lie.” The revelation? Popstars and celebs have feelings too, and Howie Day seems to have an aptitude for being the spokesman. It fits with the rebel persona. And in the crowd, listening to him, all I could think was that he is speaking for a lot, a lot of people who may not have particular depth, but who certainly have a lot of what they do have. The tipsy two-stepping women in their mid-40s that I skirted around seemed to agree.