Everyone has heard Luther Vandross sing -- but he's finally taking credit for a remarkable voice. The formerly faceless background and commercial-jingle singer is out to make his voice a household sound with two gold albums, a polished stage act and one of the most distinctive instruments in pop music.
Saturday night at Constitution Hall, Vandross unleashed an arsenal of effects: shuddering, growling, scatting, sobbing, and pure singing in his remarkably elastic, smoky voice. Relaxed and intimate on stage, Vandross, in a sparkling white sweater, lumbered around like a friendly bear with a Cheshire cat grin.
Couched in gorgeous vocal and instrumental settings, Vandross invoked idols and influences, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross and the Temptations. In tribute to Warwick, Vandross offered a sensual, aching showstopper in "A House Is Not a Home."
Perhaps because he remembers being in the background, Vandross lovingly showcased his superb group (led by Nat Adderly Jr. with crack session drummer Yogi Horton) and four singers, giving each member a solo in a delightful, funny 30-minute band introduction.
Vandross also recently produced the new album by opening act Cheryl Lynn, and his influence was apparent. Lynn's piercing, exuberant soprano swooped through the spare, elegant funk frames and put a spark in a set of otherwise anonymous dance tunes.