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POP MUSIC REVIEW : White Puts Fans in Mood for Love

August 14, 1995|STEVE HOCHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Greek Theatre's stage was made up like a huge bed Friday evening, with 30 musicians and singers--most wearing gold silk pajamas--arrayed in front of a giant headboard on cascades of satiny sheets.

The star himself sauntered onto the stage, clad in Mandarin-style, green silk pj's.

But there wasn't a single word the whole night about sleeping.

Well, what do you expect from the Buddha of the Boudoir, the Sultan of Seduction, the Rajah of Romance . . . the one and only Mr. Barry White?

OK, so it was cornball schmaltz, especially with the veteran singer and bandleader never giving a wink or a smirk to acknowledge that this shtick has long been a larger-than-life joke. Well, he did wink a few times--at the four choreographed models who adorned the stage on about half the songs, wearing ever-slinkier lingerie with each appearance.

For all the snicker potential, it's hard not to be impressed in these days of unimaginative, crude explicitness by someone who's still committed to setting a mood for love. And it's impossible to dismiss the comeback White has made in recent years, rising from near-forgotten footnote to the point where his latest album, "The Icon Is Love," has sold more than a million copies and his two nights at the Greek were sellouts.

He's just so smooth, so persuasive, that you've fallen for it long before you realize you've been seduced.

And that's romance, Barry White style.

A lot of it is that voice, that trademark basso suggestivo. Remember, reading David Letterman's Top 10 one night, White demonstrated that he could make such words as gingivitis and Nixon sound sexy. Heck, at the Greek he even made Billy Joel's hoary "Just the Way You Are" sound sexy.

Surrounded by cuddling couples all over the Greek, who's to argue? There was some dancing at times, especially in a run early in the show of White's disco-era hits--"Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" and "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up," each with soaring strings riding gloriously on top of slithering beats.

But the main moves of the night involved heads snuggling onto shoulders and, at the end of the evening, a rush to the exits. For most performers, the latter would be a sign of trouble, but with the ultra-suggestive Barry White, it just means that his fans were eager to take him up on the suggestion.

Opener Chante Moore aimed for the same effect, but the generic qualities of her material and performance added up to the evening's only snooze.

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