Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., March 21, 2008
DuffyStubb's, Saturday, March 15
Buzzed as the next Amy Winehouse, blue-eyed UK soulstress Duffy went into her official SXSW showcase as one of the most anticipated performers of the Music Festival. Her single's been the top of the pops for weeks at home. Disappointingly, her appearance early at Stubb's had the air of an American Idol audition rather than the arrival of the next superstar. Sure, her vocals were commanding, easily earning comparisons to Dusty Springfield and Winehouse, and the sultry blonde's easygoing stage presence was remarkable. The material, however, was underwhelming. Duffy's set was a confection of pop and soul that never engaged until closer "Mercy," her No. 1 with a bullet in Britain. With its meaty hook and girl-group inflection, it was the most infectious tune of the evening. Duffy's talents were further undercut by anything equally ear-grabbing. Strolling onstage in a slinky black dress, the 23-year-old singer otherwise won over the cross-generational crowd with a breezy attitude that defied her age, even though the sexy disco-funk of "Serious" and defiance of "Stepping Stone" were offset by a 1970s pop vibe that felt like retro fluff. When her debut, Rockferry, drops in May, we'll see if Duffy captures America the way she's captivated England or if she joins the list of past SXSW buzz acts that have been long since forgotten.