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Safe in his niche, Arroyo goes through the motions

Former Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo, seen here last year in Cincinnati, sticks to 1990s modern-rock radio hits. Former Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo, seen here last year in Cincinnati, sticks to 1990s modern-rock radio hits. (BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF/file 2006)

As vanity projects go, baseball player Bronson Arroyo's musical career is only moderately annoying. The former Sox hurler, who now plays for the Cincinnati Reds, croons (mostly) in tune, hires fine musicians , and knows his itty-bitty niche: 1990 s modern-rock radio hits. As paid group sing - alongs go, the one Arroyo led at the Roxy seemed to please the legions of young women reciting Vertical Horizon verse and chorus, googly-eyed and hopeful and pressed to the lip of the stage. Never mind the frosted blond bob and stonewashed jeans. He's got an MLB contract.

For those less enthralled by the sheer proximity of the star pitcher or unmoved by Better Than Ezra songs, the concert was tedious. Nothing much changed during the 90-minute set. Arroyo's capable four-piece band played each song in brisk, monochromatic mid-tempo -- appropriately enough, as the singer's repertoire is composed almost exclusively of mildly rocking fare. The vibe, unerringly upbeat and comfortably mainstream, didn't waver. From "Slide" to "Wonderwall" to "Something's Always Wrong" (in case you had your radio turned off last decade that's the Goo Goo Dolls, Oasis, and Toad the Wet Sprocket), Arroyo's deep, vacuous vocals colored every song muddy brown -- especially fitting on show-closer "Dirty Water."

Like the best cover artists, Arroyo has no musical personality of his own. Said one female concertgoer to her friend: "Isn't he good?" The friend replied, "Well, I like the songs." Arroyo is all about the songs, and the way they tap into his generation's newly minted nostalgia for recently departed youth. There was also a bit of nostalgia for recently departed right-handers -- neatly diffused by guitar-strumming Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, who joined Arroyo during the encores.

"We want him back!" chanted the audience between "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and "Rockin' in the Free World." Epstein said it would be easier to trade himself to Cincinnati.

Chad Perrone, the former frontman for Averi, opened with a set of earnest, connect-the-dots pop-rockers.

Joan Anderman can be reached at For more on music visit