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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisShe may have debuted at a mere 16 years old, but Joss Stone possessed a vocal maturity well beyond her years. The British-bred belter could've easily went the teen pop route (she's always had the corresponding looks), but instead turned to old school influences, including Motown's original era, all the jazz greats and even shades of flower power a la Janis Joplin. However Stone not only survived her mid-teen years but thrived to the point of performing with James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and even the Rolling Stones (not to mention appearances on the Grammy Awards and Super Bowl). And three albums into her short though remarkably sweet career, Stone continues to ignite a vintage resurgence, coupled with neo-soul nuances that truly put the now 19-year-old star in a class of her own.
All anyone caught up in the antics of Amy Winehouse or Lily Allen had to do was check out Stone's current concert tour, which finds her supporting the boldly titled Introducing Joss Stone (Virgin). While that moniker may appear like a freshman release, the singer/songwriter says she named it after achieving a much more mature sound than past efforts and she strutted proudly onstage presenting nearly the entire project. Along with a seven piece band and three background singers, Stone proved she was more than just another pretty face by booming her way through a sensuous set, including the early smoky serenades of "Baby Baby Baby" and "Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin on Me?), Pt. 1."
Outside of a sultry touch, she also made a strong case as a mighty balladeer, powerfully projecting her way through the empowering "Bruised But Not Broken," (which was mildly reminiscent of something Mariah Carey might deliver, minus the melodrama). "Put Your Hands on Me" oozed with a smoldering jazz groove, while "You Had Me" was a girl power anthem along the lines of Beyonce's days in Destiny's Child. Yet as close as Stone came to sounding like other artists, she continued throwing listeners for a loop, taking several urban-tinted twists and turns, despite her British background.
Though her stage presence was generally commanding, she struggled on two noticeable occasions due to lack of a collaborative presence. On record, she trades vocals and raps with Common during "Tell Me What We're Gonna Do Now," though he never showed up for those parts (ironically even as co-headliner for this particular evening). While no one was expecting to see the somewhat reclusive Lauryn Hill pop out for her cameo in "Music," Stone frequently made reference to the ex-Fugees singer and clearly faltered in the absence of the feisty front woman's boisterous parts. Yet even at her weakest, the youthful entertainer's spirit could not be shaken, suggesting we'll be hearing a lot more from the relative newcomer as she creeps her way towards 21 and beyond.
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