It came as no surprise when Keith Sweat announced, at the beginning of his Saturday night show at the D.C. Armory, that he was "gonna beg all night long." The 44-year-old singer is perhaps better known for his over-the-top lyrical pleas than for the nasal whine he uses to deliver them.
Whether requesting love and devotion, as on the 1987 slow jam "How Deep Is Your Love," or negotiating for carnal affections with songs like 1994's "Get Up On It," Sweat uses his singing to try to drown out women's inner voices and persuade them to listen to him instead.
Sweat, who appeared with SWV, K-Ci and Jo Jo, Blackstreet and Guy, bleated his way through material stamped with the musical signature of producer Teddy Riley: tinny keyboard riffs, stiff drums and talk-box babbling.
Although Riley's style of "New Jack Swing," the R&B/rap hybrid sound that emerged in the late '80s, is now about as fresh as a high-top fade, Sweat's groveling has timeless appeal.
Despite its cheesy interpolations of circus music, the sinewy "Merry Go Round" is still a masterpiece of desperation, and the ballad "Right and a Wrong Way" remains one of the most pitiful R&B tunes ever, in large part because it contains one of the worst come-ons of all time: "You may be young, but you're ready."
But toward the end of the concert, Sweat took a break from his breathless moaning and groaning to explain that he's not the sucker for love that he seems. His willingness to endure romantic humiliation on records is somewhat altruistic. "I beg so y'all ain't got to!" he informed the crowd.
-- Sarah Godfrey
Kuchipudi Kalanidhi Foundation
"Navarasa: Expressions of Life," Anuradha Nehru's absorbing, 90-minute work for her Bethesda-based Kuchipudi Kalanidhi Foundation, premiered Saturday during the fifth annual Indian Dance Educators Association festival at Montgomery College's Rockville campus.
Most engrossing dance dramas have a good guy and a bad one. "Navarasa" featured an episode from the "Ramayana," a Hindu epic, pitting the godly Rama against the evil king Ravana. But as in much Indian classical dance, "Navarasa's" drama is merely a vessel into which Hindu religious and moral precepts have been poured. "Rasa" can mean mood or emotion, and nine have been laid out in Hindu belief -- love, happiness, fear, sorrow, disgust, wonderment, anger, courage and peace. The nine women of Kuchipudi Kalanidhi take on these attributes without inhibition.
Nehru uses kuchipudi, the deliciously graceful yet rhythmically pungent South Indian classical form, as the expressive base from which she urges her eight dancers onto an epic and expressive quest. With choreography contributed by Kishore Mosalikanti; original musical composition by B.V. Balasai (ranging from traditional Indian ragas to jazzy synthesized riffs); and untranslated lyrics by Uma Eyyuni, "Navarasa" blended both traditional and contemporary elements in a fully realized evening. The perfect symmetry, the shimmery light and the refined poses reflected the ultimate "rasa," or mood: true peace and enlightenment, a measure of dharma.
-- Lisa Traiger