When D'Angelo delivers a song, he slowly fills in phrases, like a painter using a small brush. When Rahsaan Patterson dives into a song, he does so with an urgency that leaves little time for slow seduction. Like D'Angelo, Patterson is an artist whose commitment to R&B craft makes him stand out from the urban-radio pack, but if he lacks D'Angelo's flair for showmanship and his higher profile, he compensates with earthy charm, as he demonstrated at the Key Club on Saturday.
With his black sweater and horn-rimmed glasses, Patterson looked like a younger version of jazz singer Bobby McFerrin--a far cry from the sex-bomb image D'Angelo flaunted at his House of Blues show a few weeks ago. Patterson's shtick is a lack of shtick. He preferred to blow people over with the wide-screen dazzle of his funk-soul arrangements, which were delivered by a crack 14-piece band, and his gorgeous, feline voice, which he can push into a stratospheric high register and then send to trawl in the lower depths.
Patterson's material ran through the complete vocabulary of R&B styles. Using elemental, two- or three-chord structures, his romantic entreaties were enveloped within sprightly shuffle rhythms, strident, bass-heavy funk grooves, feathery ballads and sunny soul-pop. Patterson was a tightly coiled force field on stage, creating stirring melodrama using little more than his agile vocal instrument.