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MUSIC REVIEW

Amos Lee plays it low-key at Wilbur

Amos Lee performing at the Wilbur Theatre on Sunday. Amos Lee performing at the Wilbur Theatre on Sunday. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Marc Hirsh
Globe Correspondent / April 5, 2011

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Three songs into Sunday’s sold-out, 100-minute concert at the Wilbur Theatre, Amos Lee promised that he and his band would “power through’’ to the end. It was a curious choice of words, since energy and drive are just about the last things that the acoustic-soul troubadour had to offer. Instead, his music was so muted and laid-back that Jack Johnson would have asked him to pick up the pace.

Then again, songs like the inert “What’s Been Going On’’ and “Bottom of the Barrel,’’ with its barest hint of watered-down funk, seemed perfectly representative of the man behind them. If Lee were any more low-key, it would have appeared as though he couldn’t be bothered to care. Barring the occasional soulfully pained wince, he expended as little effort as was necessary to strum and sing his material.

Thanks to his demeanor, Lee came across as completely imperturbable, even when he was clearly being perturbed. He delivered a deadpan, easygoing castigation to an audience member for laughing at an inappropriate spot in a story, and he restarted the coffeehouse-gospel “Cup of Sorrow’’ with good humor after the band came in and he realized that he had been playing it in the wrong key.

But he largely came across exactly like his songs: painfully earnest and often dreadfully boring. Intentionally or not, some were indistinguishable from soft rock titans Bread (“Flower’’) and Player (“Won’t Let Me Go’’). Only the gentle and airy “Black River,’’ with its lightly malleted drum taps and pedal-steel groans, used the band effectively. Even so, the crowd hung on every note, embracing every song with an enthusiasm that was far greater than anything Lee himself could muster.

Despite referring uncertainly to Boston as “Bean City’’ (or partly because of it), openers the Secret Sisters were wildly charming as they performed their throwback country duets. Sharing a single guitar between the two of them, Laura and Lydia Rogers sang in perfect genetic harmony that they applied to gorgeously crawling and haunting originals that fit in snugly between covers by the Everly Brothers and Patsy Cline.

Marc Hirsh can be reached at officialmarc@gmail.com.

AMOS LEE

With Secret Sisters

At: Wilbur Theatre, Sunday

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