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Farris Delivers a Dazzling, Liberating Set at LunaPark

November 05, 1994|RICHARD CROMELIN

Dionne Farris opened her show at LunaPark on Thursday with the hard-rock exultation of "Passion," then cut to the progressive-reggae philosophizing of "Reality" and jumped to the folk-accented embrace of "Now or Later."

It was a dazzling combination, but it proved to be a typical stretch for the singer, who just released her debut album after a term with the spiritually tinged rap group Arrested Development.

As her set proceeded, such names as Prince and Bowie seemed more to the point. Not in the charisma department, maybe, but in her liberating disregard for musical borders. It's as if the conventional categories aren't adequate outlets for her individual perspective and emotional state, so the heck with them.

The result: fluid fusions of metal and R&B, psychedelia and gospel, folk and funk, pop hooks and rock riffs. These hybrids come off with an organic inevitability, and Farris is utterly comfortable in every niche she occupies.

Focus? No problem at LunaPark, where her unflashy but forceful presence provided a unifying urgency. A small, almost elfin figure, she seemed possessed by the music as she grimaced, crouched and traced shapes in the air with her hands. Her interplay with her potent band was alive and spontaneous, generating a warm, communal spirit.

Farris' voice is powerful and agile, and her moments of tricky phrasing and interval-leaping were always dictated by the lyric. No histrionics or excess for an artist who is as purposeful as she is gifted.

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