Natasha Bedingfield calls her current road trip “The Less Is More Tour.” At Monday’s Birchmere stop, the British singer/songwriter told the crowd that the title indicates her desire to present her tunes with “very simple” arrangements in smaller settings than she had in previous outings. Then again, Bedingfield’s singles in recent years haven’t charted as highly as her early releases, so commercial realities probably also served as inspiration for the downsized theme.
Plainly, with Brit-pop of the sort Bedingfield normally produces, less is not always more. She and her backing quartet proved as much during a brief mid-set “unplugged” foray, as she and her band sat on chairs and delivered a version of her 2007 single “Soulmate” that dulled the distinction between understated and bland. The show came back to life with “Try,” a power ballad during which Bedingfield, looking fit in an abs-baring tube top and puffy pants ensemble, got off her chair and hopped around while bellowing lines about the worthiness of weathering the tough times in a relationship.
The best moments of the show came when the singer totally ignored the tour’s credo and just got loud. “All I Need” opened with electronica and the Smiths-like tremolo, then morphed into a pop-disco extravaganza with strobe lights flashing and Bedingfield bouncing around the stage screaming, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” She kept things upbeat with a faithful version of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” and covered Prince’s “Purple Rain” with even more bombast than its author infused.
Bedingfield ended the night where her career began — with “Unwritten,” the title tune and hit single off her 2004 debut CD. The song had most of the overwhelmingly female audience standing and, with arms raised up, crooning along all the motivational lyrics, which seem culled from a high school valedictory address: “Live your life with arms wide open/Today is where your book begins/The rest is still unwritten.” Bedingfield then left her fans wanting more, not less.