Barry White's lush brand of '70s boudoir soul and his rumbling, deeper-than-deep voice have long been the butt of jokes by stand-up comics on late-night TV, but for the mostly female crowd that assembled to hear the singer perform at Constitution Hall Saturday night, it was no laughing matter.

In fact, even before White joined his Love Unlimited Orchestra, offstage moans, arriving in waves like early warning tremors, triggered screams throughout the hall. And once White arrived, his huge frame neatly tucked into a satiny violet suit, the screaming seemed to increase tenfold. The lower his voice, the higher-pitched the response.

After opening with "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up" -- an appropriate choice given the crowd's reaction and the fact that White hasn't toured in seven years -- he moved on to "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" and other steamy ballads and dance tracks, his imposing voice drifting sensuously between baritone and bass registers. Did it matter to the audience that nearly all the numbers, including tunes off his new album "The Man Is Back," were basically rhythmic vamps powered by slinky bass lines and sweetened with swirling strings and sexy vocal harmonies? Not on your life.