Concert Review: Brian McKnight and Joe

by Melody Charles

“WHOO, there goes my man!"

"Nuh-uh Girl, he’s mine----oh my God, listen to that voice!”

And with those velvety vocals emanating----a cappella, no less---- from stage left, musician, singer and songwriter Brian McKnight strolled onto center stage and received a thunderous standing ovation, basking in the love of a nearly-packed audience at Grand Prairie’s Verizon Theater on Friday night.

by Melody Charles

“WHOO, there goes my man!"

"Nuh-uh Girl, he’s mine----oh my God, listen to that voice!”

And with those velvety vocals emanating----a cappella, no less---- from stage left, musician, singer and songwriter Brian McKnight strolled onto center stage and received a thunderous standing ovation, basking in the love of a nearly-packed audience at Grand Prairie’s Verizon Theater on Friday night.

When one’s been cranking out hits for nearly 20 years and able to sell millions of albums to a ferociously loyal fan base, it’s easy to operate on auto-pilot by simply hitting the notes and collecting a check, but Mr. McKnight actually switched up the scenario, turning what could’ve been a standard R&B stage performance into the McKnight Variety Show. In a swift, yet satisfying two hour time slot, the 42-year-old crooner wove hit after hit (“Should Been Lovin’ You,” “Love of My Life,”  “Still In Love,” etc.) into what he promised would be a “purely interactive” concert. “If you didn’t come with your man tonight,” he said to his swooning female followers, “then I’ll be that for you these next few hours.”

It wasn’t just a sing-and-recite-the-lyrics endeavor either: as he sat under a spotlight at a baby grand piano, Mr. McKnight spoke of his musical family and how his being the youngest of four sons allowed him to appreciate multiple genres of music. Displaying humilty, humor and an uncanny ability to mimic other performers, Mr. McKnight delighted the crowd with impressions of Nat King Cole (“When I Fall In Love”), Jeffrey Osborne (“On the Wings of Love”), Luther Vandross “(If Only For One Night”), Stevie Wonder (“Overjoyed”) and Michael Jackson (“Rock With You”) before introducing his eldest brother, Claude McKnight of Take 6. Professing a fondness for James Ingram and Michael McDonald, Claude sung from a collage of verses (“One Hundred Ways,” “What a Fool Believes,” “Ya Mo Be There”) before being joined by his baby brother and nephews, Niko and Brian Jr., who displayed that they ‘got next’ in carrying on the family tradition with an a cappella version of “The Star Spangled Banner” that induced chills, then a shriek-filled standing ovation. His sons also performed together with acoustic guitars as a duo called “BRKN RBTZ” (broken robots)and wowed all in attendance with a catchy pair of songs and voices as pure----if not quite as powerful----as Dear old Dad’s.

His opening act, Joe (Thomas), also kept the ladies in ecstatic orbit during his hour-long set: for every song (“Where You At,” “If I Was Your Man,” “Miss My Baby”), there was removal of his sunglasses and pinstriped suit jacket, accompanied by lascivious hip-grinding. When he asked for a woman to sing to, a throng of enthusiastic volunteers immediately crowded beneath him, cameras in hand, as he sang “Stutter,” “What If a Woman,” “Let’s Stay Home Tonight” and the word-for-word audience favorite, “I Wanna Know.” He could stand to be more animated on stage (he’s only 38, not 58), but his ability to relate to both men and women (he praised Dallas for “Killing Miami Heat right now” and professed to enjoy sex-induced hair-pulling, almost in the same breath) is what’s kept him, and his creamy ballads, on the charts and award-nominated since the 1990s (his ninth studio CD, entitled The Good, The Bad and the Sexy, is dropping Aug. 16).

 

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