Luther Vandross

"Never Let Me Go" Tour Comes to the Gardens

By Deborah Williams and Paul Moffett

If love and sex are pheromone-based, as recent scientific reports would have, then Freedom Hall must have been full to overflowing with them on September 18, when Luther Vandross and En Vogue brought their very polished show to town.

The show started on time with a fifteen-minute comic routine from Louis Nix, who drew appreciative laughs, but it was Vandross and En Vogue that the crowd had come to see and they did not have long to wait.

En Vogue brought a full band and dancers, a talented group who appeared intermittently. The rotating stage occasionally seemed crowded because of the number of people on it, but that might have been due to the unusual view of the backs of the singers and dancers.

En Vogue's band warmed up the audience with the chorus of "You're Never Gonna Get It." The trio joined them for a full set of material, taking turns on the lead vocals. For their second set, they changed into stunning red dresses and picked a male audience member to sit on the stage during the performance of a particularly sultry tune.

Their last set was dedicated to such black women singers as Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin, and En Vogue saluted them with covers of their hits. Their version of Franklin's "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" drew cheers from the audience.

The first half of the show was closed with a full reprise of "You're Never Gonna Get It," complete with dancers, one of whom was covered in gold wrap from head to toe.

Luther Vandross took the stage after a half-hour intermission and immediately established himself as the consummate professional. The band was positioned off-stage, so that he was the sole object of attention onstage. Large television screens afforded the audience excellent views of the band, backup singers and Vandross.

A multicolored staircase allowed Vandross to move about the stage vertically as well as horizontally and he used the dramatic stair to good advantage. He drew screams from his adoring female fans with "Love Is the Greatest Power of All" and "Here and Now."

One woman's heartfelt "Sing it, Luther!" cut clearly through the music as Vandross crooned "One look in your eyes and I see what you mean to me." His "How Deep is Your Love?" also drew enthusiastic responses.

For another tune, the stage was transformed into a cafe setting, complete with flowers on each table. The backup singers were seated, each writing love notes to a man. As smoke rolled and the music heightened, they discovered that they had been writing to the same man.

Vandross is sufficiently well-established that he allowed one of his backup singers, Lisa Fisher, to do a song from an album she is working on and she captivated the audience with her performance.

The singers' black-and-white sequined dresses and white tuxedos reflected the multicolored stage lighting. During certain songs, Vandross and the singers would be lifted in the air on concealed mechanical risers.

Red roses with small attached lights were sold during the show, resulting in some airborne flowers, and the security crew had to restrain at least three overly inspired women from climbing onto the stage.