Homage to Prince Ends on A High Note
The 9:30 club felt more like a karaoke bar Friday night, with some of Washington's finest soul crooners assembling to pay tribute to pop super-genius Prince. "21/20: A Masterpiece Tribute to 'Parade' and 'Sign 'O' the Times' " featured Baltimore soul squad Fertile Ground as the backing band, while local singers Eric Roberson, Navasha Daya, Martin Luther, W. Ellington Felton, Wayna, Deborah Bond, Curt Chambers and others each took a crack at Prince's 1986-87 songbook.
The performances certainly felt spunky, but they didn't look easy.
It's practically impossible to re-create the intangible elasticity of Prince's tunes -- not to mention his falsetto superpowers. So, naturally, the singers who strayed farthest from purple-pantomime fared best. The vintage boogie of Wayna's "Mountains" felt like an old "Soul Train" clip on YouTube, while Roberson and Daya unraveled the twitchy "If I Was Your Girlfriend" into a playful duet.
But nothing came close to the thrills provided by surprise guest Raheem DeVaughn. The locally raised, Grammy-nominated singer took the stage for the final two songs of the night -- the quiet storm of "Adore" and the superlative funk of "Kiss." Only DeVaughn's pipes seemed athletic enough to animate these jams properly, and he zigzagged through his registers to the delight of smiling fans. Sure, DeVaughn may have been paying homage to Prince, but that smooth, airy delivery evoked another pop icon entirely: Marvin Gaye.
-- Chris Richards