Lisa Marie Presley performed in New York last week
Associated Press photo
Let’s be honest: Most of the people at the Fine Line Music Cafe Tuesday came not because of Lisa Marie Presley’s music but because of her famous father or just general curiosity.
At 44, the King of Rock’s only child has been more of a mom than a careerist. She’s had more husbands (four) than albums (three). She has four kids, too (her 3-year-old twins travel with her). And there was an entourage of 20 on tour with her in three buses, even though only five musicians joined her onstage.
Presley is promoting her first album in seven years, "Storm and Grace," her most personal and downbeat effort. In her recent performances on TV, she has seemed tentative. But at the Fine Line, she seemed more comfortable than confident --- and a little out of her element. She was friendly and talkative but she seemed to talk as much to her sidemen as to the fans. Only half-way through an 11-city tour, she clearly hasn’t hit her gigging stride.
As a singer, the smokey-voiced Presley was more impressive live than on the record. Like Shelby Lynne and Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies, she has a limited but emotional voice. At the Fine Line, her Memphis-meets-London fog of a voice was effective on smoldering numbers like "Weary" and "Soften the Blows."
Veteran Doug Pettibone, who spent many years with Lucinda Williams, added some perfect seasoning on pedal steel guitar and mandolin. The rest of the band members (including Presley’s hubby Michael Lockwood on guitar) seemed more distinguished for their cool hats (top hat, newsboy cap and bowler) than anything else.
The petite singer has those unmistakably Presley eyes. But the closest she came to an Elvis-ism was after nearly every selection, she said, "Thank you. Thanks so much." She did not do any songs associated with her famous father.
Presley offered nine numbers from "Storm and Grace" and, for her encore, she did "Lights Out" — a peppy tune from her 2003 debut on which she sang hard, braying like Cher — and a punkish cover of Tom Petty’s "I Need to Know" (which perfectly fit her limited vocal range). It was a fun ending to a too-short performance.
In fact, Presley was onstage for only 51 minutes (including the encore) — the same length of Al Green’s infamous 2005 performance at the State Theatre. There must be something about singers from Memphis.