Though many think today’s R&B scene has little to do with the R&B scene of yore, the Friday night show at Constitution Hall featuring top acts Dru Hill, Faith Evans, Total and Case soared with a rip-roaring, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-shiny-pants energy that recalled the antics of a “chitlin circuit” soul revue. There were cheesy costumes and makeshift sets, breakneck act changes, and artist rivalries with one group running through the easily riled teen audience while another act performed. But while these carnivalesque elements were amusing, what made the show appealing was each act’s humble earnestness to entertain, even when lacking any obvious talent, as was the case with bland balladeer Case, the evening’s opener.
Sean “Puffy” Combs girl group Total followed with a triumphant display of substantive style, donning Labelle-like silver lame feathered outfits and putting on a sexy bump-and-grind that played to their sizable gay and lesbian following. Singer Faith Evans, the widow of slain rap virtuoso the Notorious B.I.G., had a sassy assurance missing in her previous live performances. Wearing a full-length white leather coat and matching knee-knocker pants, Evans belted out her many hits in her angelic yet hearty soprano. Her rendition of “Soon as I Get Home” was an awe-inspiring melismatic ride that had hands in the air and cries of “Sing it, girl” coming from every part of the hall.
Headlining heartthrobs Dru Hill, recently downsized to a trio from a quartet, put on a literally high-flying show, with lead singer Sisqo giving in to his unlikely glam-rock fancies and rising above the stage in sequined red leather pants to moonwalk while singing the group’s most recent radio predator, “Beauty.” Dru Hill, often compared with Jodeci, put on a cleaner, more crowd-pleasing show than that seminal but self-indulgent hip-hop act ever did. But like Jodeci, Dru Hill’s romantic vocals are infused with a salvation-seeking urgency that probes the very definition of soul.
Dru Hill’s romantic vocals are infused with a salvation-seeking urgency that probes the very definition of soul.