As if romantic fires needed to be kindled, Peabo Bryson preceded Roberta Flack onstage at the Merriweather Post Pavilion last night.
While not the most riveting or convincing balladeer in pop music, Bryson nonetheless possesses a powerful baritone and oodles of sex appeal, and he paces his show skillfully. Many listeners were on their feet by the time Bryson finished pledging his love on a series of vibrantly orchestrated ballads, and they were joined by virtually everyone else when Flack greeted him unexpectedly just before intermission. The two then embraced for a couple of duets, but more memorable moments came later when the spotlight shined on Flack alone.
When she was at her best, capturing a distant memory on "Killing Me Softly" or gently recounting romantic yearnings on other songs, Flack's control of the audience was complete. If it weren't for frequent shouts of "Sing the song, lady," the proverbial pin could have dropped unnoticed in the still of her night music. But on this occasion at least, Flack was more disposed to celebrate love affairs than to reflect upon them. On many numbers, including "Up Where We Belong," her voice sounded bolder and more expansive than usual. For much of the night, it filled the pavilion with a wonderful sound, both spirited and sublime.