Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 | 9:26 p.m.
In a city where tribute shows and cover bands thrive, Seal and Macy Gray’s performances at the Palms on Saturday night were right at home.
Both artists played songs from each of their new cover albums to a moderate, but nonetheless enthusiastic, crowd in the Pearl at the Palms.
R&B songstress Gray took the stage first, her orange dress, blue boa and bedazzled mic stand a stark contrast to the middle-aged crowd’s buttoned-down look.
With her backup singers and band crowded intimately around her, Gray led them through a 45-minute set that touched on tracks from her new rock cover album “Covers” and pop hits like 2000’s “I Try.” Her trademark raspy croon proved a good fit on many of the covers, giving a raw, honest feel to more traditionally polished numbers.
However, by the end of the set, strain and weariness set in, likely from a recent bout of bronchitis. Gray made the mistake of letting one of her backup singers perform a verse in “I Try,” and that performer's soulful, robust interpretation decidedly overshadowed her.
The dark, midsized Pearl was perhaps not the best fit for a warm, eclectic set like Gray’s; a return to a relaxed outdoor setting like the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Boulevard Pool would be an ideal venue to let her talent shine.
In contrast, the bombastic production and sound of headliner Seal’s set would have benefited from a larger space. (However, the throngs of fans crowded intimately around the British singer’s performance platform would likely beg to differ.)
Seal’s set was an abrupt contrast to Gray’s mellow vibe, kicking off with dramatic synthesizer-heavy numbers like “Killer” that were accompanied by lasers and odd futuristic videos that looked borrowed from an iTunes visualizer. It was a strange choice for the singer, and much of the set had a cheesy, easy-listening feel that was more akin to Phil Collins than the soul and R&B of which Seal has built his name.
The sound for the first part of the set was muddled due to either poor in-house mixing or the wall-of-sound arrangement between Seal and his band onstage. The oversaturated horns, synths and backup vocals often flattened Seal’s throaty tenor and at times made it difficult to distinguish from the rest of the music. It was only when he began to take on more pared-down, acoustic numbers from his 2011 cover album “Soul 2” that the power and nuance of his voice finally showed through.
But if there were issues with the sound or performance, the crowd didn’t seem to know it. Most of the audience was up and dancing, with many women ditching their dates to sway solo in the aisles, wine in hand; others were quite content to stay put in their seats, or, more specifically, in their dates’ laps. Plenty of men crowded the stage, as well, camera phones in hand to capture the view as Seal swerved his hips and serenaded the crowd.
He may have just gotten divorced from Heidi Klum, but if the show was any indication, he won’t stay single for long.