An inviting Furtado is the life of her party
At the close of her show at the Agganis Arena on Tuesday night, Nelly Furtado thanked the audience for coming to her party.
The Canadian spitfire proved to be a charming and gracious hostess. Even when the energy flagged or awkward moments arose, as happens at even the best soirees, Furtado had all the elements in place to keep things moving.
She introduced the guest list of roughly 5,000 to new friends -- four limber dancers and a smart six-piece band. She entertained with a strong soundtrack that effortlessly hopscotched through half a dozen genres and three languages. The decorations were spiffy -- the three-tiered white stage was flanked by wings etched with silhouettes of palm trees, and a huge digital disco ball and pix i lated screen provided a canvas for bright neon splashes of color. They complemented the '80s bent of her smash makeover album, "Loose." And, the number one rule of throwing a fete, she remembered to have fun herself.
Furtado, clad in a form-fitting red minidress -- the first of four sassy wardrobe choices -- began strong with the breezy, tropical polyrhythms of "Say It Right," neatly bridging the gap between her original, more earthy image and her current, somewhat less convincing, va-va-voom persona.
On "Turn Off the Light," spiked with rippling electric guitar riffs, the singer-songwriter's adenoidal chirp recalled "Borderline"-era Madonna, only with better pitch control and more power. That voice and the sound mix only got stronger as she moved easily from the anthem of uplift "Powerless (Say What You Want)" to fluffier dance floor fare like "Do It" and quieter ballads like "In God's Hands."
Odd choices occasionally threw off the flow of the show, however. A decision to group all of the ballads together -- following an expired-feeling, countrified cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" -- resulted in a slow deflation of the momentum. The songs themselves, especially the soaring "Try," were well played and sung but didn't add up to more than that. A break for the backup singer to cover Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" was generous but overlong and occurred in what should've been the buildup to the climax. And the hip-hop retrofitting of her debut hit, 2000's "I'm Like a Bird," felt forced.
There was, thankfully, a last-minute surge. Furtado ditched her heels for flats and flailed about jubilantly on "Promiscuous" -- with percussionist/rapper Saukretes playing the part of Timbaland -- and encores of the Spanish-language jam "No Hay Igual" and the fuzzy funk of "Maneater."
Opener Kenna committed two of the cardinal sins of an opening act. First he demanded that the audience love him, then he scolded listeners when they instead chose to politely tolerate his hybrid of rock, soul, and new wave.