Riviera, Chicago

Pete Yorn may or may not have received some help from his famous industry siblings, leading to some high-profile soundtrack placement and a heavily promoted major-label debut, but much of the guy's su

Pete Yorn may or may not have received some help from his famous industry siblings, leading to some high-profile soundtrack placement and a heavily promoted major-label debut, but much of the guy's success is a product of a pretty impressive work ethic.

After all, Yorn worked hard, touring incessantly and playing every club and festival around the country that would have him, until radio and MTV had to pay attention. Thus, the singer himself deserves a lot of credit for the sleeper success of his Columbia debut, musicforthemorningafter.

What Yorn doesn't deserve are the inexplicable comparisons to such writers as Bruce Springsteen—even Yorn would be quick to admit that 1980s acts like the Cure and the Replacements inform his music more than the Boss. Too bad.

He could have used a little of Bruce's ambition when it came time to write his second album, Day I Forgot, a boring retread of his first disc that largely replaces whatever charm he had with an anonymous, by-the-numbers quality and an increasingly adenoidal yowl.

Likewise, Yorn's reputation as a searing, Springsteenian live act increasingly seems like some sort of marketing concoction, since the guy is dullsville on two feet. If he was any more boring live, even he would have fallen asleep. At the sold-out Riviera, Yorn played a perfunctory set, backed by an over-rehearsed band that brought nothing fresh to the songs. It was as if, just a few weeks after the release of the new album, they were already going through the motions.

"Carlos (Don't Let It Go to Your Head)" came across like second-hand Lenny Kravitz—no small achievement—and the fine single "Come Back Home" couldn't quite hold up against songs from his first record, such as "Life on a Chain" and "For Nancy." After Yorn announced he was going to "juice it up" by switching to electric guitar, the subsequent songs didn't sound any more energized. An encore version of the Stone Roses' "She Bangs the Drums" was a fine choice that ironically highlighted how uninspired Yorn was otherwise.

To be fair, Yorn seemed especially bland following Grandaddy. Like the Flaming Lips without the whimsy or Radiohead without the bombastic release, the group mines a distinctive brand of melancholy art-rock that's steeped in sadness despite majestic chord changes and hummable melodies.

Even though the audience didn't always embrace its somewhat combative, left-of-mainstream stance, ever-increasing applause indicated that chunks of the crowd were being won over.—JK