"Classic" was always the label for D'Angelo, whose supple voice, winding songs, and interplay with background vocalists contain elements of Marvin, Sly, and Al Green.
The scarf-wearing gypsy hit the stage as if he'd never left. The righteous bounce of "Left & Right" and the funky grit of "Chicken Grease" were showcases for the ebullient singer and his equally joyful ensemble. He let his stewing vocals slide easily and subtly from knuckle-dragging lows to teetering falsetto highs on a gospel-ish murder ballad with an unprintable title. (Its principal lyric was "Why are you sleeping with my woman?").
Ever the sensualist, D'Angelo made food the sexy comparative centerpiece of a buzzing "Brown Sugar" (the Philly lass he referred to had caramel skin and cocoa eyes) and the cooing, chocolate-infused "Me and Those Dreamin' Eyes of Mine." His newest songs, the cool-breezing "Really Love" and stuttering "Sugah Daddy," were inviting. And, 61 minutes after he started, D'Angelo wrapped up a perfect soulful set.
Blige was no slouch. Attired in a series of smart dresses and an impossibly architectural hairdo, she commenced her stormy set with five smashes (including a dizzying "Enough Cryin' ") before coming up for air.
The nasal vocalist with the gut-punched emotionalism pulled out her femme-empowered heft on "Not Gon' Cry" from Waiting to Exhale, showed her romanticism with "Everything" (and its nod to the Stylistics), and stated emphatically, on "Love a Woman," how most men have no clue what they're doing between the sheets.
Though the women, Blige and Fiona, may have had strength in numbers, their mix of tender and tough couldn't hold a candle to D'Angelo's sultry, manly command of the language of soul.