With Black Daddy, a horn-driven, all-African American band, behind him, Thicke didn't start slow. He started in with the classic yet contemporary-cosmopolitan R&B vibe of which he is a master. His first three tunes were hard and fast, with "Give It 2 U," the teasing "Magic," and "Take It Easy on Me." The last, filled with flitting vocal highs and topped with a false ending, with James Brown-like countdown, was Thicke personified, fascinated by his lady's stare, then ripping off her underwear.
The proceedings slowed to a slink with "Oh Shooter," a psychedelic-soul organ-driven jam, and the lithe "Dreamworld," in which Thicke hopped behind the piano, settled into a twinkly, bluesy cocktail-lounge feel, and sang of role-changing. Then he segued into "When I Get You Alone" and its "A Fifth of Beethoven" sample.
Although his hits were funky and furious, the ballads defined where Thicke is, considering his troubled marriage. Before entering the swaying samba of "Lost Without U" and its appreciation of the female form ("Baby, you're the perfect shape/ Baby, you're the perfect weight"), he spoke to couples in the audience, telling them that if they'd found their soul mate, never give them up - with a catch in his voice. Sincere? All an act? Either way, he was good.
Opener K. Michelle - the star of Love & Hip Hop as well as an as-yet-untitled new VH1 show - started the night boldly with her brand of frank-talking, big-voiced, stormy-weather soul and tracks like the socially conscious "The Life."