NEW YORK Soul crooner D'Angelo's voice was red hot Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall, showing no evidence of the throat problems he cited in canceling Friday's performance.
His supple voice seemed better than fine as it slipped from sweet falsetto to sly talk to low-down growl as he riffed through "Me and Those Dreamin' Eyes of Mine" and "One Mo' Gin."
"Does everybody feel all right tonight?" he asked the sold-out crowd early into his set. The audience roared its affirmative response.
"If he was sick last night, he sure ain't showing it now," Michael Williams, 23, of New York.
On tour for the first time in nearly five years, D'Angelo seemed eager to make up for lost time. He kicked off his three-night stint Thursday at Radio City, with Mos Def opening, by extending his performance 15 minutes longer than his two-hour limit, incurring thousands of dollars in penalties because of the overtime required for the venue staff.
But for his return Saturday night the canceled Friday show has been rescheduled for Monday (March 20) the chastened crooner kept his set to a fine-free one hour and 52 minutes.
Backed by a 14-member crew of musicians and backup singers but no dancers D'Angelo worked his way through slow, sticky jams and head-boppin' funk sessions from 1995's Brown Sugar and this year's Voodoo.
Fans hoping the buff singer would be outfitted onstage as he was for his "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" (RealAudio excerpt) video probably were disappointed with his simple white tank top and black leather pants.
His set also was stripped down: Four platinum-colored fabric panels hung behind the band's catwalk and platform for the first half of the show. But for the encore, the panels were replaced with a juke-joint-styled advertising mural, and D'Angelo changed into an all-white ensemble, including a pimp coat with a huge white-fur collar, tank top and drawstring pants.
Once everyone had a moment to admire the coat, however, he took it off and launched into a jammin' 20-minute prelude to "Brown Sugar," his chart-topping ode to cannabis. He wrapped up the song with everybody onstage dropping to the floor as he said, "Let's break this down, all the way to the subway station."
Unusually Vivacious Night At Radio City
Usually, Radio City is one of those keep-to-your-seat venues dancing in the aisles is forbidden, and sometimes ushers will even ask standing fans to sit down. Most of the time, it isn't an issue, since New Yorkers are notoriously hard to impress and even harder to inspire to excessive displays of enthusiasm.
D'Angelo's performance, however, had nearly everyone at least grooving in their chairs, and more than a few, especially in the front rows, putting the ushers to work. Despite the enthusiasm, the audience merely applauded briefly during the set change for the encore. A few quickly gave up after trying in vain to get the "encore stomp" going.
D'Angelo encouraged audience participation, using all the typical stunts, including humping the stage, and during "Left and Right" (RealAudio excerpt), leading a sort of modified Macarena, urging the crowd, "Put your arms left, then right, then up and down. Now, put your hands together and stomp your feet."
Several times during the show, he worked the edge of the stage, shaking hands, kissing cheeks even passing out roses to a few lucky women during his cover of Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Makin' Love." Strutting back and forth across the stage during "You're My Lady," he got the ladies and a few men screaming as he slipped off his shirt and threw it into the crowd.
D'Angelo brought the vibe to a fever pitch during his show-stopping rendition of "Sh*t, Damn, Motherf*cker" (RealAudio excerpt), from Brown Sugar. Punctuating the chorus with a primal wail and pumping his fist in the air, the audience was on its feet as he sang, hollered and moaned about a man who catches his lover cheating on him.
As he brought the song to its vengeful, climactic conclusion, D'Angelo slammed his microphone stand on the stage like a rock star, breaking it in two and hurling the pieces across the stage. He then jumped into the crowd, urging them to sing the cursing chorus with him.
"Muthaf---a just blew it up!" said a 28-year-old New York fan who only identified himself as Brian. "That's some 'Behind the Music' sh-- right there!"