Lalah Hathaway, B. Slade
B.Slade is the new stage name for Tonex, a former gospel singer who shocked his fans by coming out of the closet a few years back, and was the subject of a compelling New Yorker profile.
Nowadays many people don't know what to make of him, including the audience at Club Nokia on Saturday, most of who were reserved and came for the headliner, Lalah Hathaway. B.Slade's 40 minute set elicited subdued laughs of confusion, golf course claps, and, sometimes, cries of "Sing B!" At one point he began to remove his clothing like a Russian doll; his duds included a poncho, a kimono, and a gold ornamented shirt that made him look like an ancient prince.
As for his set, it included mellow songs like "Ciao Bella" that were created when he was still singing Christian music. "That's Tonex right there!" a fan gasped. But he's clearly looked to reinvent himself, and his songs included statements like "Gotta start all over again."
His show included everything from yodeling, pop locking, and rapping, but the crowd's most spirited response came when he sang the a capella version of "Tomorrow" from the musical Annie. The more he stripped his music down, the more the crowd seemed to connect with him.
Once intermission started, the audience let out their pent up energy to old school jams like James Brown's "Gonna Have A Funky Good Time" and Luther Vandross' "Never Too Much."
Then it was time for Hathaway. Since her 1990 self-titled debut, she has straddled the fence between the classic soul of her father Donny Hathaway and jazz inspired R&B.
She arrived on stage in a sparkling purple dress, and opened with "Baby Don't Cry," a feel good, New Jack Swing number that was one of her first singles.
She paused for a moment to remove her heels so the real show could begin.
Soon it was time for the funky bassline of "If You Want To" from her last album, Where It All Begins. Hathaway shimmied, and moved into a sexy, slowed down vamp, "I'm into romancin', I'm into candlelight."
She also performed a string of covers including Anita Baker's "My Angel," Earth Wind & Fire's "Love's Holiday," and L.T.D.'s "Love Ballad." "Y'all remember the 70's and 80's when they had songs with words?" she asked.
Though Hathaway's lower register could be compared to Anita Baker and Sade, she is a style unto herself. She can sing male parts in a full bodied tone while sounding sultry and feminine.
The most sensual part of the evening was Hathaway's cover of "Say Yes," from the neo-soul group, Floetry. Hathaway paused to gaze into the crowd with a seductive look during the bedroom jam. Her frequent collaborator, Rahsaan Patterson, joined Hathaway. He was wearing an athletic jacket, as if he was just out running errands, but he brought it: He and Hathaway exchanged soaring ad libs until Patterson whipped his head back and sang a near whistle that almost stopped the show.