Sade Adu's singing captivates audience


"I'm going to try to concentrate tonight on singing from the bottom of my soul," singer Sade Adu told the crowd at the Merriweather Post Pavilion last night, "but if I get distracted it's because you're so good-looking. So if my voice cracks or the tuning is off -- you're to blame."

Sade, flattery will get you everywhere.

Not that she would have had any trouble winning over thaudience if she hadn't been so lavish with her praise. Frankly, she had the crowd with her from the first notes of "Sweetest Taboo," and kept them there through the rest of the band's two-hour set.

It helped, of course, that she undulated barefoot onto the stage in a hip-hugging, midriff-baring outfit that sparked so much woofing from the male members of the audience that it sounded for a second as if Arsenio was in the house.

But even if Adu had spent the evening hiding behind the drum kit, she would have still sounded seductive. Give her a slow, sultry groove, like the quietly percolating "Bullet Proof Soul," and Sade pulls the listener in through the purring intensity of her delivery; give her something a bit more upbeat, like the samba-based "Smooth Operator," and she has no trouble revealing the power beneath the breathy surface of her voice.

Adu was particularly stunning on songs like "Pearls," where she could show off the full range of her expressive gifts, or "Like a Tattoo," which underscored the torch-song side of her sound. But her performance didn't really simmer until the band got hot, slipping easily into the burbling funk of "Nothing Can Come Between Us" and moving artfully through the shifting dynamics of "Cherry Pie." Too bad a bass-heavy mix made mush of "Your Love Is King" and put an Excedrin-headache thump behind the beat in "No Ordinary Love."

Digable Planets, who opened the show, also had a little too much boom in its bottom. Fortunately, that suited the rap trio's sound a little more, and never quite got in the way of jazz-spiked raps like "Nickel Bags" and "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)."

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