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POP MUSIC REVIEW

'Kiss and Unite' Is a Stunningly Uneven Musical Mix

June 10, 1996|STEVE APPLEFORD

Saturday's "KIIS and Unite IV" benefit concert at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre brought out the best and worst in the performers. Kool & the Gang, the Tony Rich Project and others made their 15-to-20-minute appearances frustratingly brief, while a stunningly weak "performance" by Cher seemed to last an eternity.

Kool & the Gang played smooth R&B pop, including their hits "Ladies Night" and "Celebration." The material was often lightweight, though always uplifting and pleasant. The Spin Doctors were tight and focused, not the meandering mess they have been in past appearances. If the band's groove rock seemed out of place amid the night's heavy R&B sounds, singer Chris Barron led the band through a rocked-up version of K.C. & the Sunshine Band's disco classic, "That's the Way (I Like It)."

Cher spent only about 10 minutes on stage, but that was plenty. Pacing energetically in jeans and high heels, the singer-actress once actually tumbled to the stage. Far worse, Cher chose to lip-sync her two-song set (which included a track from her new "It's a Man's World" album). Afterward, disc jockey Rick Dees asked the crowd, with unintentional candor: "Wasn't that unbelievable?"

Later, a check for $105,070 was presented by KIIS-FM to Cities in Schools, though that seemed small compared to the giveaway of what the station called $1 million worth of "tickets money can't buy," which were awarded to listeners over the last several weeks.

The lack of live musical backing was reasonable in the case of La Bouche's brand of Eurodisco, which at least brought a high energy level to Irvine Meadows. Less could be said for the Detroit vocal trio SWV (Sisters With Voices), which quickly fell into a tedious brand of hip-hop.

The Tony Rich Project performed slinky R&B, energized with sharp electric guitar flourishes. Rich was an alternately seething and cool presence, occasionally approaching the vocal richness of Marvin Gaye.

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