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Utah native Dia Frampton finished in second place during the 2011 season of "The Voice," doing well despite an on-screen personality that was about as exciting as an abstinence-only sex education class.
It took more than a year for the 24-year-old singer-songwriter to make her official return to Utah, headlining at The Complex on Tuesday in Salt Lake City, but Frampton came alive with a short-but-winning show that illustrated why she is one of the most talented performers to rise from Utah in recent memory.
Frampton seemed much more comfortable onstage than she ever did on TV, this time backed by the familiar members of her former band. She and her sister Meg toured around the world as Meg & Dia with that band before the quintet was dropped by its label, shortly before Dia auditioned successfully for the first season of the singing competition hit "The Voice," NBC's answer to "American Idol." Even older sister Meg was onstage with Dia throughout the evening, and it was like a Meg & Dia reunion tour only this time Meg & Dia's alt-rock sounds were replaced by Dia's more poppy songs, released in December on her solo debut album, "Red."
Clad in a modest white dress that immediately differentiated her from her often-scantily clad fellow reality TV contestants, Frampton delivered a 15-song set just longer than an hour, dominated by songs from "Red." (Unlike other reality TV contestants, Frampton had a hand in co-writing all 10 songs on "Red.") Much of "Red" features electronic elements that were notably absent in the live setting, with Frampton and her band rocking their way through her songs, which followed a consistent and compelling blueprint: upbeat and catchy arrangements set to dark lyrics about molestation, broken hearts and suicide, among other things.
It is a formula that Bruce Springsteen has used successfully throughout his career, if you listen carefully to the desperate lines of the synthesizer-driven "Dancing in the Dark" and "Born in the U.S.A."
An amiable and likable Frampton joked to the crowd that although she had been touring since she was 17 as part of Meg & Dia, she was labeled as a "new artist" on "The Voice." So, in a nod to her past, she sang in her breathy and childlike voice two songs with her sister from the Meg & Dia days, "Bandits" and "Love Is." In addition, Frampton trotted out spirited covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Green River" single "Bad Moon Rising," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "American Girl," and in the night's most engaging display of her on-stage showmanship, Flight of the Conchords' "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room," delivered to a red-faced male fan she brought on-stage: "You're so beautiful like a tree, or a high-class prostitute / You're so beautiful you could be a part-time model, but you'd probably have to keep your normal job."
Frampton concluded the two-song encore with a treat for her fans from her TV stint: an innovative, piano-driven rendition of Kanye West's "Heartless," a song she performed on the show that established her as not just "The Voice" but an artist worth following.
Review • Dia Frampton
R Utah native and runner-up on "The Voice" gets a little help from her friends and sister in winning show
With • Andrew Allen
Where • The Complex, Salt Lake City
When • Tuesday, March 6