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POP AND JAZZ REVIEWS : A Red-Hot R. Kelly Steams and Teases

October 10, 1994|DENNIS HUNT

ANAHEIM — What is with R. Kelly?

Headlining the rap/R&B Budfest at the Pond of Anaheim on Friday, the red-hot singer-producer closed his set with one of the weirdest, most schizophrenic juxtapositions of songs ever heard in an R&B concert.

After an hour of steamy, lewd songs such as his hit "Bump N' Grind," he sang "Sadie," an impassioned homage to his late mother, complete with a picture of her on the stage. Actually, sang is an understatement. What Kelly did was frenzied, all-out, gospel-style wailing that went for a good 10 minutes.

Then Kelly announced the show was over. Clearly bewildered by the abrupt, somber climax, the audience started filing out, but after about five minutes he decided to do an encore. On this last, lascivious song, he not only did his usual sex-act simulation, but also finished with a flourish--with his pants down (he was wearing briefs).

What possessed Kelly to follow an anguished, heartfelt ode to his mother with such a raunchy performance? Though he obviously didn't intend it that way, it came across as downright disrespectful.

Subtract "Sadie" and it wasn't a bad show for fans of ribald R&B. Kelly is a pretty fair singer, but what his fans--mostly shrieking women--really care about, and what really drives his show is his mastery of the art of sexual teasing. Women squealed with delight at his bedroom chatter and sexy antics, which included crotch-grabbing and simulated sex with his female dancers.

The preceding set by the rap group Heavy D & the Boyz had the same sexual theme, but the approach was lighthearted. After all, how seriously can you take a portly rapper who comes on like God's gift to women? It didn't matter that Heavy D's rapping skills are barely average. Thanks to his lovable persona, his show is a lot of fun.

But the set by Long Beach rapper Warren G was a disaster. He suffered through the nightmare of any artist who relies on taped instrumental tracks--sound-system failure. Furious, he led the crowd in an obscene blast against the sound man, but some fans weren't too sympathetic. One screamed out that the G in his name apparently stands for goof .

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