Music Reviews

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House of Blues, West Hollywood
Wednesday, Jan. 31


When she made her debut several years back at only 15, Brit belter Joss Stone was an instant wow, a young girl mining soul past with a voice beyond her years.

Now 19, with a stunning new album, "Introducing Joss Stone," due in March, she's proving to be the true heiress to Aretha Franklin as this generation's queen of soul. Her sold-out show Wednesday at the Sunset Strip House of Blues not only drummed up interest in the upcoming release, but it also announced that she most definitely has arrived as a superstar.

After an intro instrumental from her soul revue-style band led by producer Raphael Saadiq that included horns and backing singers, a new Stone took the stage. This wasn't the blond girl-next-door of past years; she sported a new look of long, permed, magenta hair and wore a tight mini-dress of gold and silver waves. She was instantly captivating.

But the new look was all in play, without any pretense, and it wasn't long before she kicked off her high-heeled pumps to sing her favorite way: barefoot.

Giddily sprinkling glitter on the crowd up front like a soul-shoutin' Tinker Bell and saying, "I'm a proper girly-girl," she wowed the audience with a mix of new numbers that were more than well received, along with a few songs from her first two albums.

There were echoes of Holland-Dozier-Holland Supremes and Honey Cone, Al Green and, of course, Lady Soul herself, but this was not a retro retreat; the music also included contemporary hip-hop and R&B elements in numbers that included the bouncy "Girls, You Won't Believe It" and the slinky, heartbeat pulse of "Music."

She was joyous for the night's centerpiece, the groove-deep "Super Duper Love," while such new songs as the churning, hooky "What Were We Thinking" and the summertime-breezy pledge of "Tell Me What We're Gonna Do Now" already sounded like future hits ready to follow her advance single, the irresistible, struttin', Staple Singers-styled "Tell Me 'Bout It," which came near the end of the hour-plus set.

Unlike today's so-called "divas" -- and we know who they are -- Stone doesn't engage in grating histrionics. Sure, she can wail away and go from whisper to roof-raising in seconds, but she's never over the top. This Stone's a gem, and she's shining bright.

She also performs Thursday at the Bowery Ballroom in New York.
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