The singer Seal performed at Wolf Trap Wednesday night, putting on a show that was something like the rain that caused the venue's lawn to blossom with umbrellas: on again, off again.
Supporting "Human Being," his first new record in four years, Seal (born Sealhenry Samuel in London to parents of Brazilian and Nigerian descent) was in fine voice in front of the capacity audience, but his set suffered from uneven pacing. Transferring his latest album's airy, sumptuous grooves to the stage proved problematic.
Working with a band of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, Seal stayed on top vocally, but newer material like "Latest Craze" was run over by a hurried dance-floor groove, while "Human Beings" wilted under heavy-handed guitar work.
Better were songs that eased into the flow ("Newborn Friend," "Lost My Faith" and the moving "When a Man Is Wrong"), then surged into more expansive, sometimes explosive sections.
Dressed in suave black garments and spotlighted in icy blues and pinks, Seal cut a statuesque figure. The crowd roared for "Prayer for the Dying" and "Kiss From a Rose," but each surge of momentum was deflated by the somewhat awkward ordering of the set list.
Ultimately, Seal came across like his latest recording--uneven, with moments of shining beauty and stasis. His art at a crossroads, he seems intent on exploring each avenue fully before choosing future directions.