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Review: Romantic ‘Soul Sessions’ rolls
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Hip-hop and urban artists often seem to take their sweet time reaching the venue when it comes to shows they play here.
The worst of all was an infamous shambles of a show in 2001 when Snoop Dogg showed up at 10:45 p.m. for a show that had been scheduled to start four hours earlier and be finished by 10:30 p.m. — a “record” that one can hope will never be matched, let alone beaten, by any artist representing any genre of musical entertainment.
With that as a frame of reference, veteran concertgoers will appreciate the fact there was no tardiness whatsoever last night, Feb. 14, as three classic contemporary urban acts — K-Ci & Jojo, BLACKstreet and Shai — along with the slightly younger Bobby V shared the bill for “Soul Sessions Vol. 4: Valentine’s Day Edition” at Blaisdell Arena.
Opening act Shai took the stage precisely on schedule at 7:15 p.m., and Bobby V and BLACKstreet followed like clockwork. K-Ci & Jojo’s musicians got the second half of the show rolling precisely on time as well.
Shai — Darnell Van Rensalier, Garfield A. Bright, Dwayne Jones and George Spencer III — personalized its set with a beautiful a capella arrangement of “Let’s Go To Hawaii” that the Hawaii visitor industry should jump on as the theme of its next promo campaign. Almost anyone — from Britney Spears to Beyoncé — can sound good singing with tracks; Shai’s a capella singing showed that their harmonizing is as polished and smooth as ever.
“Baby I’m Yours,” If I Ever Fall In Love” and “Come With Me” — all three performed with the group singing with the standard instrumental backing tracks — were welcome treats for the many fans of their ’90s hits.
Bobby V — known as Bobby Valentino until another artist of that name filed suit and forced the change — was energetic and charismatic as the youngest act on the bill. Backed by a keyboard player and an outstanding drummer he traversed the stage with a gait that added elements of dance and swagger to the basic business of walking.
He also threw in that bit of basic erotic choreography pretending to make love to the stage and held his microphone to his crotch in the familiar crowd-pleasing pose. The crowd loved it.
Beyond that, the guy has a beautiful voice, looked buff and ready for the ladies in his tight light-blue T-shirt, and let the audience know early into his set that he has new work on the way. Yes, he’s too young to really be considered “old skool” at the moment, but he fit in quite well with the older artists.
BLACKstreet — Teddy Riley, Chauncey Black and Dave Hollister wearing immaculate white suits and backed by several musicians — raised the energy level several more notches with their tight, 50-minute set. The trio made their entrance wearing neon trimmed suits — the blinking neon strips a striking futuristic effect in the semi-darkness.
Riley, Black and Hollister delivered the powerful individual voices and assured harmonies that have been important parts of the group’s music for two decades. Dramatic tightly synchronized choreography added eye-catching visual punch.
K-Ci & Jojo were introduced by their band with several minutes of music punctuated by the needless rhetorical question “Is everybody ready? Is everybody ready?” Oh well!
Once the brothers, Cedric “K-Ci” and Joel “Jojo” Hailey resplendent in contemporary off-white three-piece suits, got rolling with some high-energy gospel-style call-and-response material the relevant question for many women in the audience became “How many items of clothing is K-Ci going to remove?”
The jacket went first, then the tie and then vest. A little while later he had his shirt tails were out, and then the shirt was unbuttoned and then it was gone completely. By the end of the set K-Ci had torn the black “wife-beater” he was wearing as an undershirt.
Jojo provided a striking contrast by remaining fully dressed — even keeping his jacket on — throughout the 60-minute set.
They closed with “All My Life.” Give them credit for getting into their old Jodeci material before that final number.
The benefits of buying — or winning — arena level seats for the show were evident early. Every one who buys a seat near the front expects some opportunity to make contact, and Shai and Bobby V didn’t disappoint.
BLACKstreet went farther. The trio addressed a significant amount of one song to a woman down front who’d evidently told them she was single. Black climbed down off the stage later and — bare to the waist — took off on a lengthy stroll through the audience while Riley and Hollister continued singing on stage.
K-Ci took the audience tour thing farther when he climbed off the stage and sat on the shoulders of a security man who took him for an even longer jaunt through the crowd that included a hike up into the risers.
Concert emcee Rick Rock worked the crowd during the minimal breaks required for equipment changes. Based on the audience responses to his questions it appeared that most of the audience was 35 or older — in other words, people who were teens or twentysomethings when BLACKstreet, Shai and K-Ci & Jojo were new artists instead of “old skool.”
Even so, most of audience evidently had an early curfew. When K-Ci & Jojo took a bow and left the stage almost everyone got up and headed for the exits even though the duo’s musicians were still playing. Only a handful stayed on hoping for a hana hou.
For all the love in the air on a Valentine’s Day evening, and the excellent work put in by the singers, it must be mentioned that the concert sound was deplorable. There must have been some place in the arena where the bass didn’t overwhelm almost everything else in a sonic wall of rumble, and where the vocals didn’t ricochet around the arena until they became almost completely unintelligible.
If you were in that spot, congratulations, lucky you, I’m sure it was wonderful. If not, the singers’ voices came across clearly and cleanly only when they were singing a capella or with minimal instrumentation. The multi-talented Bobby V came across quite clearly when he accompanied himself on electric keyboards; BLACKstreet and K-Ci & JoJo were also best served by the sound system when they were backed only by one of their musicians.
Beyond that, the beauty of the hits we remember was swept away by the cacophony.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.