Shady's angel

Good girl Dido shared the mike with rap's bad boy, then spread her wings without him.


Key Arena, 628-0888, $30 7:30 p.m. Mon., June 11

BONO AND SINATRA, Bowie and Bing, Plant and Puffy—odd-couple musical pairings are nothing new. But while most such collaborations are consigned quickly to the pop-culture curio box, one in particular transcended its novelty roots, eventually capturing the national zeitgeist and becoming a bona fide phenomenon. Before the Grammys, the protests, and the Elton duet, fate brought together one Ms. Dido Armstrong, a demure British folk songstress, and the sociopathic Detroit rapper known alternately as Eminem, Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers III, and, well, Satan in Adidas Track Pants. On Em's disturbing obsessed-fan paean "Stan," the hip-hop Beelzebub borrowed Dido's sweet, pensive vocals from her love song "Thank You" (later a top 10 hit on its own) to augment his staccato, expletive-laced delivery, and the two somehow came together like peanut butter and chocolate, a post-millennial Bogie and Bacall. While her No Angel had been selling a respectable number of copies for months, the unlikely alliance became, as they say, Dido's Big Break. Now, the woman who once played to a tiny if appreciative crowd at a now-defunct Capitol Hill venue is poised, more than two years on—and without having released a single new song to the public—to take on the Key Arena as a headliner. It's been quite a ride.

"There are certain things I'm sick of and certain things I'm not sick of yet," the singer admits from her bed in London (she's sport enough to squeeze in a late-night chat). "I'm not sick of singing, obviously, or doing actual shows, but the endless traveling I could do without. I've definitely grown with the venues, if you know what I mean. I've learned more each time I've toured, and now being on the road two and a half years. . . . You learn how to make the venue seem smaller than it is." Of course, she hasn't gone completely from zero to 60 on the musical front; brother Rollo, of the successful British trip-hop act Faithless, did let his kid sister worm her way into the studio and onstage, a collaboration that eventually led to a solo deal with Arista Records. Her atmospheric, electronic-tinged folk seemed just the thing for waning Lilith fairies, and the inclusion of the airy "Here With Me" as the theme to intergalactic teen drama Roswell soon followed. But while Paula Cole and her ilk have (some say thankfully) languished, Dido thrives.

The former literary agent and lawyer-in-training now spends the majority of her time living the rock star's nomadic touring life, far from London and the barrister boyfriend to whom the unashamedly squishy "Thank You" is dedicated. She has, however, found a few friendly boys to keep her company; huggable Brit-poppers Travis are joining her for a run of U.S. shows. "I can't wait," enthuses the singer. "It was my idea [to tour with them]; they're like my favorite band. I know they're different from what I do, but I think it complements it, and most of my fans absolutely love Travis."

"They're such sweet guys," she continues, "and I was sort of blown away by how nice they are. But they've also just got the same mentality, which is that it's all about music and having a lovely evening and being friendly and enjoying the moment, really." A sentiment, we're sure, that the Real Slim Shady would stand up and share.

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