Concert Reviews: |
Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, Washington, USA
-By Roverta Penn (Seattle P-I)
Contemporary American R&B performers have a lot to learn from the British techno-soul movement. Tight clothes, gyrating hips and vocal pyrotechnics are not necessary to entertain. And to move people, emotions and spirit are stronger, more enduring the superficial sexuality and lyrical hooks.
Seal, who was born in England to Nigerian and Brazilian parents, is an extraordinary example of music as balm rather than intoxicant. In a polished and theatrical show at Seattle Center Arena last night, he sang songs about hope triumphing over lose, love lingering past infatuation and the acceptance of pain as part of reality.
Though fabulous lighting, diaphanous drapes and much stage smoke did a lot to make the Arena seem more like a disco than a sports facility, it was Seal's performance that lifted the experience beyond the ordinary. Dressed in a long black frock coat, the sinewy vocalist was a stark figure against dramatic back lighting the changed from mauve to Day-Glo green and orange depending on the mood of the song. He moved through space not like a dancer but a man searching for something intangible but worthy of the quest. His "I'm Alive" seemed more an effort to convince himself more that others that he is living in spite of the dying and violence all around us. Again in "Killer," he addressed violence and the will to live. And in "Prayer for the Dying," his deep voice moved from a stark rawness into a celebratory shout.
"This song is all about life, in spite of the title," he said introducing it.
But because of the AIDS epidemic, which has hit the dance culture more severely than the general population, there is great loss inferent in Seal's lyrics and his movements. Much American dance music has not gotten beyond the denial of this loss - it still uses sex as the greatest come-on - making it seem vapid and contrived.
Seal and the British songstress Des'ree, who opened the show with her own set of inspiring songs and elegant moves, are like goodwill ambassadors, the Elisabeth Kebler Rosses of the dance floor, showing us that from confronting pain there can come release and dignity. And from looking inside to our inner stregth, we can unite our souls with others, on the dance floor, in the ghetto, on the bus and in the streets. Their concert was the perfect ending to World AIDS Day.
Reproduced without permission.