Tongues Against Chins And Kilt Jokes At Dido/Travis Tour Debut

Dido performs three unreleased songs; Travis play the invisible band.

SEATTLE — It was just a moment — one instant in the first

song on Dido's American arena tour opener Monday when she broke the mood.

During an otherwise somber take on the separation story "My Lover's Gone,"

the singer bent down toward the venue in front of the stage and stuck her

tongue out flat against her chin. It was a sign.

"It's all a little bit surreal for me," the 29-year-old Londoner explained

to fans at the Key Arena after the song.

The last time Dido Armstrong played the Emerald City, she was rocking the

Crocodile Club, where four strides will get you from the stage to the back

wall. But that was 15 months ago — before her song "Thank You" turned up as the chorus hook on Eminem's "Stan," then hit #3 on

Billboard's Hot 100 all by itself; before her debut album No

Angel (1999) went triple platinum. Now the trip-hoppy pop singer was

gazing out at thousands of people spread across a professional basketball

court.

Swapping her brief jitters for a heaping dose of aplomb, Dido and her

six-piece band — two percussionists, a guitarist, bassist, keyboard

player and DJ — set about claiming the venue as their rightful turf.

"All you want is right here in this room," she sang on "All You Want."

Over the course of the 80-minute show, she introduced three unreleased

songs to the three-quarters-full crowd, including the deceptively aching

addiction portrait "Don't Leave Home," which she's been performing live for

a good while already.

Another new tune, "See the Sun," was built first around electric piano,

then rose to a climax on big beat drums and an anthemic chorus. "And you

probably don't wanna hear, 'Tomorrow's another day,' " Dido sang, "I

promise you you'll see the sun again."

Leaving her band behind, she performed the third new number, a plea for a

simpler life called "Do You Have a Little Time," as a piano soloist —

a role she hadn't played publicly, she said, since age seven. "If you

should stop for a while, you'll find me standing by, over here/ On the side

of your life," she sang.

Despite the enormity of the 17,100-seat arena, the stage felt intimate.

Three elbow-shaped, movable lighting rigs ringed the right and left sides.

Combined with a circular, opaque screen hovering above, they turned an

open, vulnerable space into a enveloping cocoon ... that is, until a back

curtain lit up with a thousand lights, transforming the stage into the

bridge of a giant spacecraft — appropriately enough during "Here With

Me," the Dido track used as the theme for TV's teen sci-fi drama "Roswell."

Throughout the 15-song set, Dido displayed her unfettered dance skills.

Clad in charcoal pants and a baby blue tank top, she moved more than

anything else like a classic hip-hopper: bobbing at the knees, throwing her

arms out, pushing her finger down at the floor.

"Thank You" became a sparsely arranged sing-along, but it was overshadowed

by a euphoric run-through of No Angel's disco bonus cut, "Take My

Hand." Dido said she once swore "she would never, ever, ever play this song live.

"Now it's my favorite," she said.

Scottish pop four-piece Travis opened the night with their new

single, "Sing." Unfortunately, the banjo that's so distinctive on their album The Invisible Band was ransacked by the muddy, bassy mix.

Sporting his unique, bleached-blond pseudo-mohawk, singer and guitarist

Fran Healy won the crowd with his affable banter and suggestive

discussion of what lies under kilts.

If he was aiming to infiltrate the American pop consciousness that's

largely shunned U.K. compatriots such as Blur, Stereophonics and Ash, he

certainly was covert about his intentions. Not once did he mention the name

of the band's new album (perhaps aptly titled The Invisible Band),

or that it would be released Tuesday.

On a blazing "As You Are," from The Man Who (1999), perpetually

slouching guitarist Andy Dunlop ensured himself more visits to the

chiropractor, bending so far forward at the waist that his instrument hung

a mere 18 inches from the floor as he scratched out the song's noisy

crescendo.

"People have lost the habit of looking each other in the eye when passing on

the street," Healy said, introducing the tune.

"Drop the guard. You might get slapped in the face — or someone might

kiss you."