Terence Trent D'Arby is the name of the future, at least according to the British rock press--and according to D'Arby himself, for that matter. And the buzz at the Roxy on Wednesday night (a big industry schmooze scene populated by Rod Stewart, Sean Penn and Madonna, among others) only underscored that impression.
When the American-born, British resident took the stage for his formal U.S. concert debut, it was hard to imagine this slightly built, stiff and ill-at-ease guy changing the face of pop music.
But early in the show, when D'Arby let out a " Whooo ," did a split and then threw off his coat and danced across the stage as his eight-man band kicked into some James Brown funk, there was little doubt that D'Arby has got it : He's got the voice (a cross of Sam Cooke smooth and Otis Redding hot); he's got the moves (lots of James Brown and Prince) and he's got the songs (his mostly original soul/rock set hinted at great things to come). And that he offers all this without any unnecessary fuss or flash makes it even better.
But little in his performance or brief between-song comments revealed much about the artist and his motivations. Until, that is, he tried to introduce Smokey Robinson's "Who's Loving You" and Cooke's "Wonderful World" and, almost tongue-tied, tried to explain how much such songs and artists mean to him.
When D'Arby is world-famous for his mouth, his moves, his fashion sense or whatever, the people who were really paying attention Wednesday will remember fondly the image of this sincere, even humble man motivated by his love for the music.