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Pop Music Review

DeShannon, Ever Sincere

October 30, 2000|NATALIE NICHOLS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With such genteel '60s classics as Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love" on her hit list, Jackie DeShannon has always been more free spirit than snobby diva. So it wasn't surprising that the singer-songwriter acted like a member of the band during her rare performance Saturday at the Whisky.

The Kentucky native and 40-year Los Angeles resident demanded no vamping introduction, but instead walked out with her nine-piece ensemble, which ranged from twentysomethings to veterans. Beaming at the assembled throng of family, friends and fans, she strummed her acoustic guitar and launched into the love-struck pop of her composition "When You Walk in the Room," a 1964 hit for the Searchers.

The nearly hourlong set included such touchstones as her own 1969 Top 5 single "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," the massive 1981 Kim Carnes hit "Bette Davis Eyes" (which DeShannon co-wrote), and "Needles and Pins," another Searchers hit that she recorded first, with less chart success. But this wasn't strictly a nostalgia trip, as DeShannon, 56, performed selections from the highly personal "You Know Me," her first album of new material in more than two decades.

Just as her warm alto was still fetchingly smoky-sexy, so were her messages still positive ones about love, whether the knee-weakening or the people-uniting variety. Such standouts as "There Goes the One" recalled her earlier torchy tunes, balancing girlish infatuation with mature devotion. Although her sax-driven, heartland-rocking group resembled a milder version of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, the better songs evoked the plain-spoken twang of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

DeShannon's wistful sentiments were sincere, and, if not always deep, often thought-provoking. Coming from someone who helped spread hippie values, the poignant "Vanished in Time," which laments the disappearance of small-town America, also stood as a sad rumination on the dissipation of that whole love-sweet-love mind-set among the baby boomers she originally inspired.

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