Hudson back in the pop spotlight

The Baltimore Sun

Despite being kicked off American Idol during Season 3, Jennifer Hudson has become one of the most celebrated performers of her generation.

The Chicago native's ascension to pop superstardom has been nothing short of meteoric. Her first acting turn, a memorable performance in Dreamgirls, won her an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Her first album, a sometimes-vibrant but mostly spotty self-titled effort, earned a Grammy. Her first tour, which stops at the Lyric Opera House on April 4, has been packing venues across the country.

But personal tragedy temporarily stalled the rocketlike momentum of Hudson's career. Just as her first single (the effervescent "Spotlight") topped the urban charts late last year, the singer's mother, brother and nephew were killed in the family's South Side Chicago neighborhood. Hudson receded from the scene and mourned the losses in seclusion. But early last month, she picked up where she left off.

Her first public appearance was at Super Bowl XLIII, where she sang - uh, lip-synced - to her gospel-tinged, pre-recorded version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." A week later, she sang live on the 51st annual Grammy Award telecast and was one of the show's few highlights.

Given the unevenness of her debut, Hudson still seems to be searching for a style that clicks. But the public has responded favorably, nonetheless. The album went gold soon after its release in September. Hudson's influences - Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and Whitney Houston (who presented Hudson her award on the Grammy telecast) - are detectable in her sweeping, full-throttle style.

Hudson's sisterly warmth and church-steeped voice are a welcome reprieve in a ring tone-era of Auto-Tuned singing from icy beauties.

See Hudson with Robin Thicke at the Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. Tickets are $47.50-$67.50 and are available through Ticketmaster by calling 410-547-7328 or going to

Here are some other shows coming to the area in the spring:

Tuesday: : Pop superstar and tabloid queen Britney Spears brings her circus-themed tour to the Verizon Center, 601 F St. N.W. in Washington, at 8 p.m. The show is sold out.

March 26: : Bluesy rock band Gomez and folkish singer-songwriter Josh Ritter headline Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. Show starts at 8 p.m. $30. 410-244-1131 or

April 14: : Disturbed will deliver its blazing heavy metal at 1st Mariner Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St., at 7 p.m. $37.50. 410-547-7328 or

April 25: : The punk-pop group Fall Out Boy garnered critical kudos with its latest album, Folie a Deux. The band plays Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia, at 5 p.m. $36.50-$125. 410-547-7328 or

May 7: : Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings will storm the stage with their sweaty take on '60s soul at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. Showtime is 9 p.m. $30. 410-244-1131 or

May 8: : Perennial soul favorite Maze featuring Frankie Beverly will deliver "happy feelings" with guest Eric Benet at Pier Six Concert Pavilion, 731 Eastern Ave., at 7:30 p.m. $38-$82. 410-547-7328 or

May 11: : Celebrated rock poet Leonard Cohen stirs souls at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia, at 7:30 p.m. $40-$250. 410-547-7328 or

May 18: : The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, delivers his righteous-minded rock at Verizon Center, 601 F St. N.W. in Washington, at 7:30 p.m. $68-$98. 410-547-7328 or

May 22: : Country sensation Kenny Chesney brings his pop-glossed rustic sounds to Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. $42.25-$82.25. 410-547-7328 or


The Pietasters, May 16:

For people looking for a fun show for less than $20, frat-rockers the Pietasters headline Rams Head Tavern, 33 West St. in Annapolis, at 9:30 p.m. $15. 410-268-4545 or

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