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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Seal slowly stokes emotional fire

November 20, 2003|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Seal is still searching -- for love, for racial harmony, for consistently worthwhile material. The British singer performs with a soulful rasp that is best served by songs that set his emotions ablaze with drama and intensity, elements that show him at his most inspired, and whose absence saps him of power.

Seal began his concert Tuesday at the Wiltern LG in a mostly quiet mood, opening with several songs that seemed designed to present him more as a romantic crooner than a modern soul stirrer, much as does his new album, "Seal IV" -- which meant that the first third of the nearly two-hour concert had the singer calmly cradling his microphone in the mode of restrained romantic, gingerly pacing the stage, and definitely not on fire.

That changed the moment Seal removed his suit jacket and picked up an acoustic guitar and began to sing the emotional "Don't Cry," reestablishing Seal as a fiery soul-rocker with an abundance of hooks and feeling. Better still was his new "Don't Make Me Wait," with his pained vocals set across sorrowful, bluesy solo piano. That one earned far more crowd reaction than his mid-tempo pop songs.

Seal was best when tapping into deeply emotional, romantic subjects. But as he introduced "Colour," his song of imagined racial harmony, he described his dream of "a place where, indeed, there was no color." And as he sang the chorus, he touched the outstretched hand of a fan in the front row, making a connection in the color that consistently suited the singer: blue.

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