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State Of Heartbreak From Gosdin : Michele Vice Bucks Minimalist Tide

April 23, 1986|CHRIS WILLMAN

Times can be tough for someone who bills herself as a "singer/songwriter/performance artist." So when someone comes along gutsy enough to buck the minimalist tide in trying to make a meager club gig into a theatrical event, you hope for the best.

Backed by a six-piece band, Michele Vice came to At My Place on Monday equipped with film clips, a slide show, a painted backdrop and even a cameo appearance by an ominous extra in a mask and robes.

These accouterments, however, were mostly red herrings. Though the comparisons Vice has picked up to English chanteuse Kate Bush aren't completely off the wall--the influence seems obvious on more highfalutin material like "Each Time I Throw Myself Out of the Window"--most of the songs (and all of the good ones) are in a more straightforward vein of romantic introspection.

The closer she does get to Bush's Master Thespian-style stage antics, the farther Vice runs afoul of her strengths, though she does have a nice flair for more subtle dramatic signals. And the bow-wearing, midriff-baring singer tended to be reminiscent of a different breed of crooner--Madonna--in the unevenness of her voice, which she admitted was on the rough side Monday.

But if you forget some of the sideshow aspects what's there is basically a likable and attractive pop singer who's at her best when she's at her straightest. Nicest were a couple of lost-love ballads, one of which featured a welcome guest appearance by Novi, Los Angeles' most famed rock viola player.

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