August 3, 2006
By Harriet Kaplan
Confident and self-assured at 20 years old, singer/songwriter/keyboardist Debra Arlyn demonstrated a sense of maturity and poise that takes most performers years to cultivate and hone during a show at The Mint. Though her image, reminiscent of Jessica Simpson in looks and dress in a new wave get-up, could have undercut the seriousness of her lush pretty pop songs but all was forgotten when she sat at the piano, played and sang her heart out. Tales of love's lost "Why Can’t We Start Over," "Words I Never Meant," to dreams yet to be realized on "Let it Go" and dealing with life in general on "Roll On" were the order of the night. Most performed were from the Oregon native’s soon-to-be released CD, "Complicated Mess". Though the material was somewhat conventional and commercial, the dramatic yet nuanced, delicate pacing of the songs and the playful and sometimes daring arrangements carried the show. With a voice that recalls the power and timber of Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aquiliera and even Mariah Carey, Arlyn was always in control of her instrument and utilized it to great effect. Whether belting out a song with swelling chorus, being sultry like a torch singer or showing a quieter vulnerability dropping down her voice down a key or two, Aryln exhibited the talent of a seasoned pro.
She also talked with ease and openness to the sparse but receptive audience in attendance explaining the origin of how many of the songs were written. Arlyn also wasn’t afraid to poke fun at herself for making mistakes in her life that inspired her work or even to say she can be sort of goofball at times. She was often transfixed and lost in the music while performing. An animated presence, Arlyn’s pink stilettos were in constant motion kicking here and there as she twisted to and fro in her chair from side to side.
The band, including guitarist Christian Kramer, bassist Lance Seiders and drummer Lance Lacey, seemed low key in comparison. But they were not mere sidemen to this powerhouse of a singer. Each contributed something significant to the show. The solos were economical, tasteful, tight and veered slightly off the beaten track giving the music a bit of a necessary edge with accents of jazz, funk and R&B alongside the predominant pop-driven material. That was one constant that made this short but memorable set stand out complementing the often exhilarating vocals of Debra Arlyn.