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POP MUSIC REVIEWS

Sweat Drives Through High-Energy Performance

September 23, 1996|CONNIE JOHNSON

Any entertainer with the name Keith Sweat is practically duty bound to deliver a high-energy, fast-paced performance, and Sweat did not disappoint Saturday night at the Universal Amphitheatre.

Headlining a bill that included Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and SWV, Sweat didn't always treat his signature hits with the deliberation and care that they deserved. But, given the infectious and well-crafted punch of dance floor anthems such as "I Want Her," Sweat got the job done, albeit in beat-the-clock fashion.

Once the protege of New Jack Swing originator Teddy Riley, Sweat has established himself as a singer, songwriter and producer of note.

Whether it's on a ballad such as "I'll Give All My Love to You," with its old-school structure and sentiment, or on the hip-hop flavored "Twisted," Sweat never faltered in a concert that demonstrated he's grown into one of R&B's most distinctive talents.

By contrast, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is still such a relatively new act that it's hard to predict how enduring its appeal will be. Performing songs in its trademark scat-inflected, rapid-fire style, the group could easily be dismissed by anyone not a hard-core rap fan.

That said, it's celebrated hit, "Tha Crossroads," is easily one of the most poignant and heartbreaking compositions to emerge from that genre. The group's rendition of the song, which depicts a violence-plagued world in which people "are laughing and we're steady passing," seemed particularly moving in light of the recent killing in Las Vegas of rap star and actor Tupac Shakur.

While some of the sexual suggestiveness in SWV's act became heavy-handed at times, the group--whose name stands for Sisters With Voices--still nicely handled songs such as "Weak" and "You're the One" with sweet, teasing aplomb.

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