For many members of the capacity audience of more than 1,500 at the Uptown Theater on Saturday, the concert by Avant and Silk served as a sultry prelude for an extended evening of romantic bliss.
Avant headlined the concert that doubled as an early Valentine’s Day gift for lovers of suggestive but not overly salacious R&B. The vocalist and songwriter from Cleveland noted that “I’ve been in the game for 16 years.” While his 2000 debut album sold over a million copies, Avant’s traditional form of R&B has fallen increasingly out of favor in recent years.
Much of his patter was dedicated to extolling “real music” and condemning popular trends. After he and his six-piece band delivered a smooth version of the tender love song “You & I” that initiated slow dancing throughout the theater, Avant suggested that unlike some current hits, the ballad “don’t make you want to go shoot nobody.”
Avant also expressed nostalgia for the music of previous decades. His 60-minute appearance included covers of Christopher Cross’ buttery 1980 pop gem “Sailing,” Mary J. Blige’s impassioned 1984 hit “I’m Goin’ Down” and an homage to Marvin Gaye.
Renditions of his strongest material compared favorably to those older classics. Fans sang along to “Separated,” a song about a painful breakup, and laughed when the insistent contribution of a background singer threatened to surpass Avant’s persuasive voice on “Don’t Say No, Just Say Yes.”
Silk also specializes in the so-called “grown-and-sexy” style of R&B that caters to people born before 1980. A few of the Atlanta quintet’s 1990s hits apply traditional group harmonies to racy lyrics. The group serenaded two women who had been ushered to the stage during a reading of “Love You Down.” A simulation of the actions depicted in “Freak Me” left little to the imagination.
The absence of a supporting band for Silk was disappointing, but the distortion of the group’s backing tracks was unacceptable. A disconcertingly loud bass throb drowned out the nuances of Silk’s vocals on selections including the enchanting “Ebony Eyes.” Silk’s 40-minute set only fully succeeded during a few segments in which the canned backing tracks were silenced.
But the glitch wasn’t enough to spoil the mood set by the steamy concert.