Holy culture shock, Batman. I thought we’d squashed hysteria decades ago, but alas, it still exists in the Nick Lachey Fan. I thought, too (again incorrectly) that for most people the phrase “Nick Lachey” automatically lights up the associative phrase “America’s biggest joke.” It turns out thousands in my metro area beg to differ; indeed, for citizens of a certain demographic, what said phrase lights up is more the words “undying love.”
I’m amazed. I’m amazed at the hordes of (primarily) women, most of whom were white and in the 13 to 35 age group, who showed up—and even dressed up—to see Nick Lachey in the flesh. I’m amazed at the fierce attachment so many of these women demonstrated for this moderately intelligent, impossibly romantic smoothtalker whose lyrics are so vague and simplistic they could be directed at anyone, even me. (I am, after all, beautiful / so beautiful). I’m amazed at the level of noise these women made, the havoc they wreaked on my eardrums. I am amazed by many things, if not necessarily Nick Lachey’s talent.
Nick Lachey [2006 Rewind]
6 Oct 2006: Tower Theater Upper Darby, PA
Actual posters in crowd:
I’ll Take What’s Left of You!
It’s My Sweet 16! (exclamation mark dotted with heart)
I came into this show telling myself to give the man a chance. He is, after all, a dedicated musician and performer, and he must be doing something right to still be around after Jessica Simpson pulled the rug out from under him. I snuggled into my seat and muttered “open mind, open mind” until a screen came down for a pre-show video. What was the video, you ask? Well, it was Lachey’s video for “What’s Left of Me”—quite a moving song, I might add—prompting screams of approval and considerable audience excitement. But soon it was evident that footage from the music video was interspersed with footage of a Dodge SUV, and then interrupted with Lachey pictured inside fooling around with a soundsystem called My Gig while he performed adspeak for this, “the ultimate in infotainment”.
Chance lost. Whatever happened to subliminal marketing, anyway?
Hypothetically, say I gave Lachey a second chance. Well, that would have gotten lost immediately as well when we heard a recording of Lachey’s best bedroom voice plugging a contest sponsored by Snickers. This went down as everybody was standing up and screaming in wild anticipation for Lachey, er, I mean, Snickers. The effect was perverse, and, if I may say so, most unsatisfying.
But rants on celebrity tie-ins and product placements are so ten years ago.
Actual T-shirts Worn by Fans:
1. I LOVE NICK
2. MARRY ME NICK
3. [picture of Nick Lachey’s head]
4. NICK LACHEY, EST. 1973
Establishing himself in the now, Nick came on silhouetted behind a thin curtain and started in on “Outside Looking In.” The curtain dropped dramatically (natch), and the response was a return to Beatlemania. All he had to do was stand there; the singing was just extra.
What He Wore:
- First Outfit: Jeans, maroon v-neck T-shirt, nondescript but certainly designer black blazer
- Second Outfit (following loud and piercing shrieks): Jeans, maroon v-neck T-shirt
- Third Outfit (following comment claiming “It’s cold outside, but it’s feeling a little hot in here,” prompting louder and more piercing shrieks): Jeans, black tank-top exposing excruciatingly well-defined arm muscles and two generic tattoos)
- Fourth Outfit: Jeans, thin, black, objectively sexy long-sleeve tunic.
With him was a five-piece band who chugged along sanguinely: drums, keys, bass, electric and acoustic guitars. Most songs featured a dramatic build and a bass drum thump on every down note. During “I Do It for You,” Lachey was backlit by a backdrop of stars.
1. Why why why / do we have to cry cry cry (from “Shades of Blue”)
2. You’re beautiful / That’s all that I can say / Unforgettable / I’m caught in every way (from “Beautiful”)
3. Are you there? / Are you gone? / Do you care? / Is anybody home? (from “You’re Not Alone”)
4. You’re beautiful / so beautiful / … / I catch my breath / and fall in love again (from “I’ll Fall in Love Again”)
Five songs in, after a musical interlude during which Lachey was offstage emotionally preparing, we were indulged in The Jessica Segment. The theme switched from love to heartbreak. (While some would say these are two sides of the same coin, in the canon of Nick Lachey this binary is the extent of variety). Lachey performed “I Can’t Hate You Anymore” and “Shades of Blue” and frequently grabbed his left pec, a gesture of pain and heartache that was received with galvanizing cheers like “We love you!”
- Emotionally available facial expressions suggesting pain, sadness, and confusion
- Intense stare suggesting passion
- Right arm extended toward audience at 90 degree (how appropriate) angle to body
- Arms extended to either side of body at 90 degree angle (aka Jesus pose)
- The kneel, which involved reaching down into audience and faking interest in fans
- Occasional pelvis swivel, earning most intense level of audience reaction.
In the middle of the show, Lachey came out into the audience with security guards and a cameraman. They filmed him as he seduced a good-natured blonde woman who kept taunting him with her wedding ring. The image was transmitted to the dropdown screen on stage so that we got an excellent view of Lachey’s tattoos. It was a humorous, lighthearted moment that demonstrated Lachey’s affection for his fans, who mean everything to him.
Then we got a 98 Degrees segment, wherein Lachey and bandmates went acoustic with an upright piano and brushes on snare. They played a campfire medley of “The Hardest Thing” and “I Do (Cherish You).” It was quite nice. Lachey’s pop songs are best played quietly. There was no need for the bombast that accompanied the rest of the set—moments of silence that suggested profundity before they were disrupted by huge low-end drum rolls introducing the choruses.
After the 98 Degrees part, we were treated to a defanged version of “Higher Ground” that at least tried something different by staying acoustic. Lachey then moved into “You’re Not Alone” after first explaining what it’s about (duh?). Then he made us sit through a horrible rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” followed by “Whole Lotta Love” (because, Philly, he needs a whole lot of love). These two songs could have given the touring musicians an opportunity to shine; instead, the brutal guitar and bass lines were underplayed to keep the spotlight on Lachey’s boring voice.
Remarks Directed at Audience:
1. Crowdboosters: “Let me hear you say yeah. (Takes swig from water bottle.) Let me hear you say yeah.”
2. Tedious and uninteresting prefatory explanations of extraordinarily simple songs:
- Ex. 1: “The next song I want to do for you guys is a song about being addicted to someone’s love (emphasis on “love”). It’s about when you need someone so much, it’s like a drug (emphasis on “drug”).”
- Ex. 2: “This is from my first solo album and it’s about finding new love. It’s called “I’ll Fall in Love with You Again.” And dammit, Philly, I will fall in love again—just not tonight.” (followed by screams, which seemed unwarranted considering this message conflicted with numerous other “I love you, Philly” messages.)
3. A joke: “Well, maybe just a little.” (made in jest after finshing “I Can’t Hate You Anymore,” Song One of The Jessica Segment)
The most moving vocal performance came during “You’re Not Alone”, which was indeed as uplifting as Lachey said it would be in his tedious and uninteresting introduction. Despite his fairly generic voice, Lachey does exercise professional control over his vocals and sings like he means it. He can convey emotion; he can convince an audience he loves them.
No doubt they believed it. Watching women with shining, yearning, upturned faces streaked with tears as they earnestly sang lyrics like “You’re beautiful / so beautiful” along with Lachey, I got a sinking feeling in my gut. How depressing is it that, when all is said and done, a substantial portion of my gender wants more than anything to believe the bullshit romancing of some asshole pop star? I mean, come on, girls. That image of the ubersweet demasculinized Romeo who cries himself to sleep over you is not real; he’s made up by his handlers. The real Lachey wants to sell you a Snickers bar.
// Notes from the Road
"Rhiannon Giddens, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, brought her Freedom Highway tour to New York for a powerful show. The tour resumes next week and hits Newport Folk later this summer.READ the article