Two Reviewers, Two Takes on a Concert by Duo Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross

Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross performed at the House of Blues on Monday night.EXPAND
Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross performed at the House of Blues on Monday night.
Paige Skinner
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Two people. One Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross concert. One reviewer owns two of Simpson's albums. The other didn't even know how Ashlee spelled her name, that she still sang or that she was married to someone other than Pete Wentz. Here is how the night went from two different perspectives.

A review from the unbiased eye:
The Cambridge Room at the Dallas House of Blues is a smaller room for more intimate acts. It's for crowds entertainers like to refer to as small but mighty. The room was perfect for the smaller, and therefore by this logic, mightier crowd that saw Ashlee Simpson and husband Evan Ross perform as part of their Ashlee + Evan Tour.

The audience skewed high female with a few guys regretting picking the movie last week that led them here. The darkness of the room hid any emerging gray beard hairs or laugh lines that popped up since their days of voting for older sister Jessica Simpson on TRL.

After opening act Austin Brown exited the stage, released from duty of warming up a talkative crowd, the crew came out for sound check and to test the equipment. For roughly the next 30 minutes, they did — in a room designed with smaller acts, like acoustic sets, in mind. Maybe the half-hour wait was worth it. Maybe they needed to secure the pyrotechnics that would fill the room with green flames, licking toward the roof from an ocean of mist coughing out of smoke machines carefully placed out of sight. Maybe a large, inflatable red dragon would descend from the roof during a trademark Simpson power ballad, and the crew needed to ensure the ropes were strong enough to hold its 300-pound frame.

The crowd cheered when the band finally walked on stage, but not in an explosive way. More like the, "Hey, someone walked onstage not to check a mic cord" way. The band reached their spots to a quiet crowd, and after being introduced onstage, the married headliners ... eventually walked out to cheers.

As the couple sang, the audience participated in the new concert norm of raising their phones above their heads to record, until the diminished strength from a diet of Red Bull vodkas forced them to lower before the end of the first song.

Simpson and Ross sang a few songs from their new album, which has only six songs. Ross moved smoothly around the stage with centered energy while Simpson hopped around, their conflicting performance styles somehow producing the same bluesy love song. The crowd stayed fairly mellow but lost their shit when Simpson started singing her song, "La La," from 2004. Phones went back up to record, and while many in the audience probably didn’t see the song as it happened, they’ll be able to watch it forever, or until the cloud servers crash.

It’s easy to want to shit on Simpson, because everyone loves a fall from grace before seeing the "where are they now." A car crash featuring shaved heads, or rehab check-ins or simply when the hourglass measuring marginal talent with the right family member reaches empty. It’s easy because it’s fun, and trust me, it’s tempting, but the small crowd in attendance wasn’t there to see a car crash. They were there because they like Ashlee Simpson. No one that walked into the Cambridge Room made any assertion, privately or publicly, that Simpson was the voice or talent or personality of a generation, but they liked a few songs on the radio and wanted to go down memory lane. The crowd had fun — it doesn’t get more simplistically pure than that.

A review from the Ashlee Simpson fan:
Monday night, about 200 or so Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross fans filed into the small Cambridge Room in the House of Blues. In 2004, if you were at an Ashlee Simpson concert, you were most likely wearing Chucks and chipped nail polish to resemble the young pop star you were there to see. But last night, fans were in large hats, ankle boots and long kimonos to fit Simpson's updated style.

The room of 20- and 30-somethings felt like a high school reunion I wasn't cool enough to attend. It almost felt like people were there ironically. When Simpson sang her song "La La," there were only about 10 or so people who actually jumped up and down and matched Simpson's energy while she sang the song she once made so popular in 2004.

And about that. Simpson's energy level has not slowed down in the 15 years since she put out her first album. While her husband, Evan Ross, simply stood and sang, she bounced around onstage, dancing the entire time, even when the song was too slow and moody to match.

Ross is an exceptional singer, and his mellow performance style balanced Simpson's spasmodic movements. Simpson's voice was like you might have remembered but a little bit more polished. A standout of the night was when they sang "Paris," and Ross' bluesy notes contrasted well with Simpson's deep, raspy voice.

Face it or not, Simpson and Ross simply don't have the catalog to go on tour. Together, they have produced only six songs, and the majority of the crowd only knew two of them. They sang some of Ross' mother's songs — that would be Diana Ross — and alone, Simpson sang "La La," "L.O.V.E." and "Boyfriend." Ross performed alone for a few songs and sang covers like "Come Together."

After 40 minutes, they left the stage, assuming the crowd would want more and scream "encore" but that didn't happen. Instead, they re-emerged after a few minutes, and Simpson sang her 2004 and biggest hit, "Pieces of Me." Finally, the two sang their song "I Do," and then closed the night with a Sonny and Cher cover of "I Got You, Babe." Because when you have an EP of only six songs, you're forced to close with a cover song. 

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