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Nelly Furtado, like every female performer of her generation, has picked up a lesson or two from Madonna. Baby Girl, the high-energy opening song of Furtado's sold-out show Tuesday at Jannus Landing, offered a hint of the Material Girl's self-empowerment philosophy.
But Furtado's approach on her debut tour as a headliner is less infused with sexuality. Bouncing nonstop around the stage, waving her arms in the air, and wagging her finger (during Well, Well) at the audience of about 1,500, she came off as a relentlessly cheery cheerleader. It was more pep rally than act of seduction.
Furtado, 23, dressed in a white bodice decorated with neon-colored writing and tight black jeans, relied on that hyper energy to liven the music from her big-selling debut disc of two years ago, Whoa, Nelly! The singer, backed by five musicians, a female singer and a DJ, made a clear connection with her listeners, including several as young as elementary-school age.
I'm Like a Bird, the hit ballad and Grammy bait (female pop vocal award) was the crowdpleaser of the evening: Bubbles flooded the stage, hands were raised in the air and cell phones were held aloft as listeners sang every word of the tune, which opened with keyboard-generated strings.
For Hey, Man! the Victoria, B.C., native briefly paused her flurry of activity to sit on a stool and strum a guitar. She employed a bullhorn for effect on the half-spoken, half-sung Trynna Finda Way. Turn Off the Light featured heavy guitar chords, a guest rapper and an a cappella ending.
Furtado described S_- on the Radio (Remember the Days), played during the encore, as her favorite song from the album, and she demonstrated her affection for the tune with an expanded version.
The song is an angry response to a friend who had accused her of selling out by turning into a hitmaker. It was written, of course, before Furtado raided the pop charts. Her particular blend of rhythm music, a mix of danceclub beats, hip-hop and Latin accents, may not be groundbreaking. But you have to appreciate her confidence, market savvy and foresight: She told the world she'd make it. And she did.