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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Sex sells and so does Kells at the Forum

The R&B singer keeps the excitement level high with a tight, energetic set.

December 17, 2007|Sarah Tomlinson | Special to The Times

R. Kelly has quite the reputation. The veteran Chicago-based R&B singer has earned as many headlines for allegations of having sex with a minor as he has for his consistently stellar music, which recently earned him two Grammy nods, including one for his innovative music-video saga "Trapped in the Closet."

His repute as a powerhouse performer remains well warranted, as he demonstrated with an over-the-top, highly sexed, two-hour-set Friday night at the Forum. Although an Anaheim tour stop Thursday night was canceled, reportedly because of poor ticket sales, his Los Angeles fans were out in full force, dancing, singing along and shouting encouragement to their man Kells.

The night's extravagant spectacle began with a rhinestone-hooded Kelly being hustled through the arena like a heavyweight champion, as his trek to the stage was filmed and projected onto video screens behind the boxing-ring-bedecked stage. Pyrotechnics exploded, the audience roared, and from there, the pace never slowed. Joined by an MC, drummer, multi-instrumentalist, two DJs, three singers and six dancers, Kelly unleashed a tight, high-energy show that found him ricocheting throughout his 15-year career and delivering much of his 2007 album, "Double Up."

Kelly showed off his considerable vocal power as he crooned "It Seems Like You're Ready" after riling up his female fans with a shout out for all of the work they'd done to look hot for his show. The ladies got even rowdier as things grew ever raunchier. They cheered enthusiastically as, during "Strip for You," Kelly did just that, at least in silhouette.

The night got bawdier, much. But no matter how suggestive the show became, Kelly's mix of humor and high spirits made him as likable as he was provocative. And his smooth, strong vocals remained the centerpiece, even amid his truly wild stage show.

Decked out as sexy savages, Kelly's dancers held him prisoner during the jungle vignette that opened "Slow Wind." The night's encore was equally dramatic but showed off his more wholesome side. Kelly and his entourage emerged dressed in flashy versions of Charlie Chaplin-style suits. Several dozen female fans were invited to dance onstage during an ecstatic version of "Happy People" that even included a Christmas wish. The night's spectacle culminated in a burst of confetti, but all eyes remained on the night's main attraction, the man behind the legend, R. Kelly.

Opener Keyshia Cole, fresh off the impressive ratings earned by the season finale of her BET series "Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is," served up plenty of hits during a well-choreographed set that showed off her pipes and her moves on songs including "Just Like You" and "I Remember." J. Holiday opened the night with a short set of smooth R&B that included his hit "Bed."

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