SEATTLE "Not everything in this magical world is quite what it seems" lately, Nelly Furtado has found her words coming back to her a little more literally, thanks to a certain now-infamous FHM cover that featured the singer's face atop a body-with-bare-tummy not her own. At Wednesday's Stateside debut of her national tour, the Portuguese-Canadian pop starlet seemed happy to be in her own skin once again, flaunting only a sliver of that much-debated belly between a neon-slashed tank top and artfully faded jeans.
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The evening began with the D.C.-bred Citizen Cope, a.k.a. Clarence Greenwood, whose electronified, confessional folk-hop falls somewhere on the continuum between Everlast and Ben Harper. Following his 40-minute set of lyrics both personal and political laid down over loping reggae-funk backbeats, the audience seemed more than primed for the headliner, and after 25 minutes of stage-setting and sound-checking not to mention a floor-vibrating synth build-up of space launch proportions Furtado dutifully appeared.
Flashing an armful of acid-green bangles to match her plastic visor, the tiny brunette bounded onto a stage projected wide with her name in its signature loopy "Laugh-In" letters, and launched straight into "Baby Girl" a funked-out, syncopated play on Britney's "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" independence theme. Backed by a bombastic six-piece band (complete with DJ) and several beefy male dancers, a somewhat nasal Nelly scat-sang her way through the hypnotic, Latin-flavored "Party" before winding into her own charting remix version of Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On," whose instantly recognizable beats worked the already surging crowd into a near-frothing frenzy. She brought things down again after that with the rueful yet still buoyant "Well, Well."
An acoustic guitar was brought out for Furtado to pick at while crooning her debut album's kick-off ballad, "Hey, Man," which was interspersed with bits of the recent all-star remake of "What's Going On," on which she appeared.
Now more than half a dozen songs in, the room seemed ripe and ready for The Hit, and Furtado obliged, giving the crowd an abbreviated "I'm Like a Bird" before turning the mic outward as soap bubbles cascaded down from the ceiling. A teaser bit of No Doubt's "Hey Baby" segued into the propulsive, guitar-heavy "Trynna Finda Way" before the artist left the stage once again, paving the way for an all-star scratched set of Bell Biv Devoe, Kriss Kross and LL Cool J hits. At the end of this interlude Nelly rejoined her dancers onstage for a little "Club MTV"-style git-down.
Now wearing a head mic and hoodie, the still-visored singer drew out her own sing-a-long to Mary J. Blige's "Real Love," asking the crowd to cheer for "one of the best songs ever," then moving into her own more recent radio hit, a percussion-heavy version of "Turn Off the Light." Unsurprisingly, the hyped-up crowd chanted for an encore, pulling Furtado back onstage for "... On the Radio," a musical response to a boyfriend who mocks her FM-friendly sound. Judging from the sold-out room, packed merchandise table and screaming fans, Miss Nelly's the one getting the last laugh.
Read about all of the shows we've recently covered in Tour Reports.