Dido has been getting a lot
of attention at home in the United Kingdom of late, but not for the reason
Yes, her second album, "Life for Rent," is the fastest-selling effort by
a female artist in the history of the British pop charts. But the English
press is more excited about a recent declaration concerning her favorite
"I think sex is one of the greatest things in the world," the 32-year-old
singer and songwriter told the London Daily Mirror in a much-repeated quote.
"I just love it. It makes you happy."
A pop star who loves sex and cannily uses it to gain publicity -- stop
But the sexuality that the London-born Dido Armstrong radiates is a far
cry from the tarted-up sleaze appeal of a Britney Spears or a Christina
Onstage before an adoring crowd at the Chicago Theatre on Saturday night,
Dido was natural, unaffected, warm and earthy. She joked with winning
self-deprecation about the everyday, unassuming topics of her songs.
"See You at 40" was a kiss-off to an immature boyfriend. "Hunter" was "a
song about being single." "Don't Leave Home" was a tune about being addicted
to an unhealthy relationship. And so on.
Dido clearly isn't the most original songwriter, nor is she a
particularly brilliant lyricist. And though her voice is appealing, with its
sort of just-woke-up-huskiness, she's not a virtuosic singer. She needed
considerable technical enhancement to sustain the few showy drawn-out notes
she tried to hit, and they still sounded screechy.
Credit the astounding success of "Life for Rent" and her 1999 debut "No
Angel" (which has sold 12 million copies worldwide) to two factors: that
seemingly effortless, egoless personality and sex appeal, and her effective
if not completely original formula of merging simple, Jewel-like poppy folk
songs (or folkie pop songs) with a churning, percolating techno groove.
Dido drew on the backing of a six-piece band, including a keyboardist, a
guitarist and a bassist. But the stars of the show were drummer Alex
Alexander (who played with grace and style while syncing with metronomic
precision to the programmed rhythms) and percussionist Jody Linscott (a
powerful performer who's as fun to watch as she is to listen to, and who's
played with acts ranging from the Who and Elton John to the Pet Shop Boys).
At times, the majestic swells of Dido's music could seem bombastic, and
the hushed interludes could be melodramatic. But the groove could always be
relied upon to carry the day, even during the indulgent jams on "Isobel" and
Dido saved her three best-known songs for the end of her 90-minute set:
"Thank You" (a k a the song Eminem sampled to provide the hook in "Stan"),
"Sand in My Shoes" and the killer single "White Flag." But it was a
testament to the strength of her formula -- and her personality -- that
every tune sounded as solid as the hits her fans had come to hear.
Opening the show was the solo acoustic act Jonathan Rice, who alternated
between overly earnest and too-obvious political anthems, and too-earnest
and overly obvious love songs.