Had you arrived a bit late at Constitution Hall Friday night, you would have found the O'Jays masquerading as rappers, wearing shades, caps and enough jewelry to bring down a horse. Eddie Levert, whose sons are a little more adept at this sort of thing, even huffed and puffed his way through a few "running man" dance steps before gladly tossing in the towel.
For years, the O'Jays have punctuated their shows with similarly good-natured silliness without depriving the audience of what it really came to hear and see. Beginning with "Use Ta Be My Girl," the trio's neatly harmonized (but sometimes excruciatingly loud) show covered the familiar Gamble-Huff successes -- "Love Train," "Back Stabbers," "For the Love of Money" etc. -- featured some strong new tunes and allowed plenty of room for effortlessly smooth choreography and alternately spirited and romantic solo turns.
During the opening set, singer Regina Belle pulled out all the stops on her lusty alto. So much so, in fact, that while reprising her hits "Baby Come Home to Me" and "All I Want Is Forever," or saluting Billie Holiday and Sammy Davis Jr., she came mighty close to mimicking Patti LaBelle's arm-flapping flights. But no matter how animated or melodramatic the performance, Belle clearly captivated the crowd.