These days, when a pop star turns up with a massive set, elaborate choreography and all sorts of special effects, it's a good bet all that visual razzle-dazzle is intended to keep the audience from noticing how lame the singing is.
But when the curtains parted at the Baltimore Arena last night, revealing the splashy set and stunningly costumed backing singers Luther Vandross had taken on tour with him, it as obvious that this bit of spectacle was strictly for show. As anyone in the capacity crowd could attest, "lame" is the last word to describe a Vandross concert.
Because nobody, nobody, sings as well as this man does.
It isn't just the quality of his voice -- the effortless grace as it ascends from its resonant, baritone bottom to near-tenor heights, or the supple ease with which he shapes a phrase -- that does it. Nor is it the absolute command he has over the art dTC of soul singing, the sort of bravura performance he gave of "The Rush" or "A House Is Not a Home."