Stephanie Mills added to her growing reputation as a fiery on-stage performer with a concert Thursday night at the Universal Amphitheatre that was as frisky, feisty and dance-oriented as a Prince show.
Though blandness abounds on Mills’ latest album, she’s another matter altogether live. Her nasty-girl gyrations can get overheated, but her sassiness is preferable to cold, technically proficient singers who don’t have a clue about making a show visually exciting.
Supported by three forceful male back-up singers, Mills focused on her hits from the late ‘70s when the R&B; production team of James Mtume and Reggie Lucus supplied her with a stream of definitive hits like “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin’ ” and “Put Your Body in It.” These songs didn’t connect with pop audiences, but they fit Mills’ dramatic vocal style like a glove. Another good inclusion Thursday was her version of Prince’s “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore.”
Atlantic Starr, which opened the show, is an R&B-pop; quartet with no shortage of good material but has had trouble bringing its songs alive on stage. The group is moving in the right direction with new lead singer Barbara Weathers, though the strongest member is co-founder (and surprisingly underworked) David Lewis.