Pop Music Review : O'Jays and LeVert: R&B; Father Guides His Sons

As the social psychologists keep telling us, it's a great advantage for kids if they can have a dad around.

What's true in the home proved just as true on the concert stage Thursday night at the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim. Those talented but wayward Levert boys, Gerald and Sean, tended to mess around when left to their own devices in an aimless and stilted set with their contemporary R&B; trio, LeVert. But they stopped the nonsense and took care of some satisfying soul business in brief individual pairings with papa Eddie Levert, a still youthful veteran of more than three decades of singing with the O'Jays.

The aim of the current "Family Affair" tour, with LeVert opening for the O'Jays, is ostensibly to celebrate the success of a new generation while showing that the old one hasn't slipped. But the main impression left after 55-minute sets by each group was that the O'Jays' traditional soul music method--focused, impassioned singing in service of full-bodied songs --will always triumph over the new R&B; style, with its emphasis on style and high-tech dazzle.

LeVert seemed to forget that the first obligation of a singer is to put across a song. Then again, that may be unavoidable when the material is as thin and forgettable as most of LeVert's cliched repertoire of numbers about romance and lust.

The LeVert set's best moment came when a husky baritone from offstage began weaving itself around a Sean Levert lead vocal, embellishing and prodding. It was papa Eddie Levert, who walked out of the darkness in street clothes to join his youngest son.

Later, during the O'Jays' set, it was Gerald's turn to come out and join his dad. Their duet on "Up Where We Belong" was clearly designed as a big, show stopping ballad--and it had just the desired effect. The song was a soaring Icarus and Daedalus flight with a happy ending: This Icarus had the sense to match his father's vocal steps instead of flying off on his own and risking an unfortunate meltdown.

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