Roberta Flack simply seduced her audience last night at Constitution Hall. With a well-paced set of melodic pop, Flack's elegant, incandescent vocals and understated stage presence made for a relaxing evening with a responsive hometown audience.
Flack, a first-rate nightclub singer who got her start at Mr. Henry's on Capitol Hill, brought the intimate ambience of a small club to the half-full auditorium.
Dressed in a loose, black low-cut gown with sequined shoulders, Flack was graceful on stage. She added a theatrical touch to the duet "The Closer I Get to You" by sharing a microphone with her background singer and culminating the piece by embracing him. Her dusky, gospel-tinged voice was quietly powerful and except for an overuse of echo, avoided the vocal gimmickry and melodrama many solo singers rely on. With her six-man band and four backing vocalists providing hushed, delicately shaded settings, Flack breathed new life into her older romantic hits and new jazz/middle-of-the-road tunes.
Another Washington-based act, the Reddings, sons of the late soul great Otis Redding, opened with a set of faceless funk, including a punched-up version of Redding's "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay." Young comic Chris Thomas bridged the acts with a swift string of impressions that were accurate but lacked comic substance.