Better than: Dwele on his best day.
Revelers headed to the Heineken Red Star Soul tour at Gilley's might have been taken aback by the traffic jam on Lamar Street. But getting closer to the venue, I caught a glimpse of the marquee and realized that I was trapped in the midst of a LeAnn Rimes concert crunch. *Whew* A daring save.
Last year the Heineken Red Star Soul Tour took up at the Granada with performances by Dwele and Emily King. I'm glad they decided to do things bigger and deffer this time around, because the Gilley's ballroom allowed for a more attractive stage setting.
Opening the engagement, hosts Kenny Burns and Danella presented local producer Troy Taylor with a Heineken Independent Achievement Award. Soon after, Bryan-Michael Cox took the stage, rattling off his credentials (songwriting for Mary J. Blige and her contemporaries) in an effort to reduce the "Who is this joker?" factor.
Bald, lanky, and donning a short-sleeved plaid shirt with huge sunglasses, he wasn't much in the way of eye candy. However, he definitely made up for it with his choice of bandmates—the guitar player and the keyboardist were fine. Cox' considerable voice had to compete heavily with instrumentals on his opening song. Only the hook, “I want you inside my arms,” rose to the top. Fortunately, things picked up for him from there and the crowd stayed engaged, especially when he took us through a montage of R&B favorites including "Let's Get Married" by Jagged Edge and "You've Got It Bad" by Usher.
The set transition was pretty swift between Cox and DeVaughn. I barely got through dodging the self-involved group of wild dancers in the middle of the floor and trading tickets for free bottles of Heineken before "Radio Raheem" was stepping to the stage. Serious about his nickname (inspired by a character in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing), he strode onto the stage singing the hook from Young Jeezy’s "Put On,” carrying a huge '80s-era boom box. It was awesome in all its oversized, colorful, gaudy b-boy splendor.
He gave us an extended serenade of “Text Messages,” which is on the re-release of his Love Behind the Melody album, that was pretty sexy. However, I could have lived without him performing in a tank top during his romance session of the show. I’m going to need my boy to hit the gym a little harder before he pulls that again.
Besides the quality of his vocals, the best thing about DeVaughn is his enthusiasm for performing. His antics--collapsing at the end of a song, posing for photos en-performance, donning a robe and crown and pretending to cast the crown to his "queen" in the crowd, and walking through the audience to pay personal respects during "Woman"--are all hallmarks of an artist who takes his job seriously. It's not a game; Radio Raheem means it and he's going to make sure you love him. Take note, Dwele. -Quia Querisma
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: I like Raheem in spite of his sometimes corny “I’m your ultimate lover” persona.
Random Note: A visual artist took the stage as DeVaughn and fully completed a painting honoring Isaac Hayes by the time the show was over.
By the way: Burns and Danella’s Michael Jackson vs. Prince sound-clash during the set change was highly entertaining. –Quia Querisma