KOOL: WELL-OILED

There's something slightly odd about a band still touring behind an album called "Emergency" that's two years old. But if Kool & the Gang disagree with the dictionary definition that an emergency "demands immediate action"--like a new record--the group's concert Saturday at the Pacific Amphitheatre showed that flashiness can help overcome staleness.

Kool & the Gang operated as an efficient, well-oiled R&B; machine, which was both good and bad. The outfit offered plenty of snappy choreography and switched musical gears--particularly during a medley of its '70s hits--with impressive precision. The downside was that the eight-man band was so rehearsed, so inclined to deliver its music by rote, that nothing was left to chance. The lack of spontaneity imposed a cap on just how inspired--and inspiring--the performance could become. So the Kool Gang never got too hot.

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