BILLED AS A quiet storm concert (a reference to urban radio’s popular mellow late-night programming), these four strong acts provided a full evening of entertainment for a close-to-capacity, highly appreciative audience.
In a display of superb vocal talent, Phyllis Hyman offered an hour-plus set that was both engaging and artistically satisfying. Unlike some of her contemporaries, Hyman insists on communicating with her audience not simply through her songs but also with a warm and witty personality that doesn’t detract from her musical performance.
Material from Hyman’s last album, Living All Alone, including a stunning version of the title track, was well received. Her invitation for requests resulted in moving a cappella versions of album cuts and such oldies as ‘I Don’t Want To Lose You’ and ‘The Answer Is You’. Hyman’s inclusion of songs from Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies musical added to her stature as a versatile entertainer.
Special guest Bill Withers had only to sit, strum the acoustic guitar, and sing some of his classics from the ’70s to win instant approval. ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, ‘Use Me’, and ‘Grandma’s Hands’ haven’t aged; the material’s simplicity and Withers’ down-home approach have stood the test of time.
Acknowledging the success of Club Nouveau’s version of ‘Lean On Me’, Withers performed the song in its original form and then tastefully emulated the 1987 remake.
In addition to providing backup for Withers and saxophonist Gerald Albright, Pieces Of A Dream performed a tight set that included a particularly strong instrumental version of George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’. Vocalist Lance Webb focused on material from the group’s current album, most notably ‘Rising To The Top’ and ‘Ain’t My Love Enough’.
During his opening set, Gerald Albright displayed his distinctive sax style on cuts like ‘Come Back To Me’ and ‘King Boulevard’. His version of Luther Vandross’ ‘So Amazing’ proved most captivating.
© David Nathan, Billboard, 3 September 1988