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Lachey's pumped-up show rings hollow

Nick Lachey may be modern pop's greatest illustration of the observer effect, whereby the act of measurement alters the object being measured. How else to explain Lachey, transformed from a second-string boy-bander on the cusp of irrelevance into a viable artist through the simple act of training a camera on him and his new bride?

``Newlyweds" (and his marriage to Jessica Simpson) may be history, but standing in the spotlight of the Orpheum on Saturday, Lachey showed everything and revealed nothing. Songs such as ``I Can't Hate You Anymore" and ``What's Left of Me" ostensibly chronicle moments surrounding the collapse of his relationship, but Lachey spent his entire performance signifying emotion to the audience without actually expressing any.

That made for an energetically hollow show, with his fans screaming their enthusiasm on cue, rather than in response. The music served as a mere backdrop, sheets of glossy pop noise with every instrument cranked to 10 at all times. The segue from ``I Can't Hate You Anymore" directly into ``Shades of Blue" just underlined the sameness of Lachey's material.

He mixed things up with a full-band acoustic mini-set that featured songs ``The Hardest Thing" and ``I Do (Cherish You)" from the band 98 Degrees and a slide blues cover of Stevie Wonder's ``Higher Ground." In addition to providing Lachey with an undeniably great song, the latter afforded him the opportunity to go ``way down south," which for the Cincinnati boy apparently means Detroit.

Lachey ended his first set with Led Zeppelin's ``Ramble On," which morphed into ``Whole Lotta Love" before he could reach the Tolkien-inspired lines about Mordor and Gollum. Both were reasonably faithful and well outside Lachey's capacity to credibly pull them off. It didn't matter to the gaggle of radio contest winners deposited on risers next to the drums. They didn't do much of anything beyond a tiny amount of dancing, but simply by being observed onstage with Lachey, they were transformed.

Also, if you were in the market for a candy bar or an SUV, Lachey would be glad to suggest some brands for you.

Dirtie Blonde opened with stiff and dully calculated acoustic-based pop that sounded like a Lilith Fair Gwen Stefani. It was followed by Joanna, who showed a bit more personality but not enough to distinguish her unremarkable pop-rock material.

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