Lisa Loeb has always been an unobtrusive musical delight. Over the course of the past eight years, the Dallas-born singer-songwriter has steadily evolved into a legitimate focal point on the pop music scene. She garnered widespread attention for her breakthrough single “Stay” (I Miss You),” which topped the Billboard charts well before she even signed a record deal. During a recent solo performance at New York City’s Bottom Line in mid-November, Loeb’s naturally warm demeanor succeeded in making everyone forget just how wet and chilly it was outside. Fresh from touring with the Goo Goo Dolls, Loeb was in town to promote her new indie release Hello Lisa, a delicate collection featuring collaborations with Glen Ballard, Randy Scruggs and sometimes-main squeeze Dweezil Zappa. Bedecked in her familiar black-rimmed glasses and still looking like jailbait, Loeb was wholeheartedly embraced from the first moment her name was announced up until the final chord was played. She performed a drawn out set of new and old songs, which all sounded more or less the same. Loeb’s music overlaps in more than just texture and form: songs like “Everyday” and “Underdog” appear on both Hello Lisa and her last major label release, Cake and Pie. Hearing Loeb sing these songs back to back in what was meant to be a display of “new” material was akin to spinning in place: you think you’re going somewhere but, in fact, you haven’t moved an inch.
Loeb was breezy and conversational the entire evening. I, for one, felt like I was eavesdropping on a personal discussion each time she spoke to an audience member, sharing stories as if she were catching up with an old friend. Essentially chatting more than singing (“I always seem to bring bad weather with me when I play New York” and “Can I bring a TV out here and watch Curb Your Enthusiasm between sets?”), she also devoted an exorbitant amount of time tuning her acoustic guitar, laboring endlessly until it all resembled a bad shtick. But when she delved into the initial notes of “Stay,” all was instantly forgiven, her lilting vocals reaching melodious highs and soothing depths of innocent emotion. Loeb’s music may be simple but her songwriting is succinct, direct and personal. She uses words economically to expose the tattered fabric of battered relationships in a girlish, intelligent fashion, marking moments in time and taking her time doing it. So, I suppose, if one is going to spend an intimate evening with Lisa Loeb, you may as well bunker down and settle in, ’cause you won’t be going anywhere for quite a while.