R&B singer Kem has made a name for himself as a source of love songs, simple and true. He draws full houses wherever he performs, including the Warner Theatre on Wednesday, at the first of three scheduled engagements. But it's not apparent why.
When Kem stole a few minutes near show's end to express gratitude at the path his life has taken, it was a welcome reprieve from the tedium that marred the bulk of his presentation. Not even an extremely capable seven-member band could enliven the melancholic material or its messenger.
Although possessing a rich, lean tenor and alternating falsetto, Kem was either unwilling or unable to adjust his approach to make such otherwise alluring tunes as "I Can't Stop Loving You" or "True Love" distinguishable from each another.
Fantasia Barrino (who goes by her first name) fared far better. The 20-year-old singer, whose 2004 "American Idol" victory propelled her onto the R&B/pop music scene, was teeming with energy. Whether eliciting audience support on the refrain to "Baby Mama," her up-tempo paean to single-motherhood, or bringing the crowd to its feet with a medley of spirited R&B covers, Fantasia seemed to be still vying for votes.
Once the young singer discarded the superfluous choreography and dramatic vocal flourishes (undoubtedly leftovers from her "Idol" training), she was able to assign startling depth to numbers like Willie Nelson's "Always on My Mind."
-- Phyllis Croom