The O'Jays could do no wrong at Constitution Hall Saturday night--not as long as sweet Philly soul harmonies charged the air and lively, if not always perfectly synchronized, choreography delighted the eyes. And certainly not as long as the trio members contested--as they did much of the night--who among them was most worthy of the attention of the "ladies" in the crowd.
As it turned out, this was hardly a matter worth discussing. Whenever Eddie Levert, dripping with perspiration, issued a romantic plea, few in the audience could resist. His urgently commanding baritone voice made similar pleas by Walt Williams and Sammy Strain seem pale by comparison.
Sexual one-upmanship aside, the show was a thoroughly entertaining overview of the group's many recording successes. Though not as galvanizing as Levert, both Strain and Williams are expert showmen and fine singers, and the group members wisely avoided some of their more preachy and dated material. At least one classic tune--"Backstabbers"--was shortchanged during a lengthy medley, but the other hits were given their due, propelled in part by a fine and funky 11-piece ensemble. An extended, gospel-charged "Joyful Noise" was among the evening's highlights.
The opening set by the Chi-Lites was all but obliterated by excruciatingly loud volume. The problem was so severe that lead vocalist Eugene Record consistently sounded strident, his words largely unintelligible. Reverberating, bass-driven funk numbers fared little better.