Music News & Reviews

Review | R. Kelly leaves crowds wanting to hear more

R. Kelly spoke eloquently when he said you can’t have R&B without the R. - or, as he pronounces it, Ar-ra.

Kelly, the singer who seems to take music seduction to a more deliciously deviant extreme with each song he releases, brought his “Double Up Tour” to the Colonial Center Saturday night. And though he’s far from a nostalgic act or a performer who is past his prime, Kelly’s show played like a greatest hits collection.

To do so, though, he had to perform medleys, thus he never engaged a song fully. And some were left out completely.

There were the hooks Kelly has made for others like Snoop Dogg’s “That’s That,” Fat Joe’s “We Thuggin’,” Cassidy’s “Hotel” and Twista’s “So Sexy.”

Dug from Kelly’s exhaustive 17-year career tomb included “Fiesta,” “Thoia Thong,” “Snake” and the club-appropriate “Feelin’ on Your Booty,” the latter of which inspired, let’s say, slow dancing not appropriate for a prom.

Kelly gets more mileage out of material than probably any other performer because of his ingenious remixes. He performed the alternate versions of “Ignition,” “I’m a Flirt,” “Make it Rain” and “I’m Love With a Stripper,” the last was weighed down, unfortunately, by a simulated lap dance.

Kelly, who has the doo-rag-and-white T swagger of a rapper, was able to elevate his performance from club-floor spectacle to magnetic when he tossed the theatrics and just sang without accompaniment; his voice is charming and robust.

The a cappella snippets of “Bump N’ Grind” and “Slow Dance” exemplified what R. Kelly’s appeal is all about: No matter what he’s singing about - backsides, believing he can fly and more backsides - he makes you feel and hear it (that is, if you can ease past the well-worn topics).

It didn’t appear that Kelly was dismayed by his upcoming child pornography trial which begins May 9. He was engaging, though one person sitting nearby kept commenting on Kelly’s unkempt facial hair.

For the song’s he didn’t get to there was a video montage during a costume change. The one obvious complaint would be about the extended set dramatizations, which included a scene with a jungle motif. The dancers reminded me of Grace Jones in “Conan the Barbarian.” Not a good look.

The openers J. Holiday and Keyshia Cole, both of whom have R&B hits, were grossly overshadowed by Kelly. I recall thinking Cole looked awkward dancing, and not many will remember Holiday because his 7:30 p.m. start time meant a mostly empty arena.

But what’s there to really to complain about, especially when Kelly left you wanting to hear more? Oh yeah, he didn’t play “Trapped in the Closet,” the R&B opera with 20-something episodes and counting.

That’s probably an upcoming world tour to itself.

Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.