COSTA MESA — Melissa Manchester has one of the most convincing voices in pop music. Why, then, does she expend so much energy mugging, waving her arms, jumping up and down from the piano and racing around the stage?
Maybe she just has to. Her vivacious presence Saturday during the second night of a two-night engagement at the Orange County Performing Arts Center with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra nearly overshadowed fine performances of her past hits intermixed with a Gershwin medley and tributes to both Ella Fitzgerald and Edith Piaf. Her overly animated ways brought to mind the onstage antics of her friend and onetime boss Bette Midler.
Yet, when it comes to singing, her approach isn't half as stylized. Manchester put strong, warm tones to "Midnight Blue," "Don't Cry Out Loud" and "Looking Through the Eyes of Love" without resorting to vocal gimmickry or false appeals to emotion. She came across best on her own material and that from her songwriting clique (Carole Bayer Sager, Kenny Loggins), but seemed less comfortable working through the Gershwin medley or while scatting to "Lady Be Good." Still, her expressive use of dynamics and the way her voice filled with breath during quieter passages was absolutely spinetingling. If only she'd stood still long enough for us to enjoy them.