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POP CAPSULES

VANDROSS, LaBELLE: THE SPIRITS SOAR

July 21, 1986|ROBERT HILBURN

Luther Vandross and Patti LaBelle have such all-consuming show-biz instincts that their dream concert setting would be Times Square, complete with all the lights of Broadway aglitter and a million fans singing along. At times, these melodramatic tendencies have covered up their artistry, but not so Saturday night at the Forum.

Vandross, who closed the show, has shed more than lots of weight (he now looks as trim as the prime-era Marvin Gaye). He still slips in an annoying huff-and-puff vocal punctuation, but he avoided the props and other glitzy elements that made his last Universal Amphitheatre date appear bloated. He was at his most explosive when challenged vocally during a duet by LaBelle, whose own hourlong set was equally spirited. For once, her colorful, foot-stomping mannerisms seemed truly aimed at squeezing every ounce of emotion out of a song, not just at working up the audience.

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