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O’Jays Serve Up Professionalism at Universal

You’d think that with four decades of performing under their sequined belts, the O’Jays would be as loose on stage as the Grateful Dead. But the years of experience seem to have had the opposite effect on the veteran R&B; outfit.

At the Universal Amphitheatre on Saturday, before an adoring audience that surely would have forgiven any missteps, the trio stuck to a script so tightly written that it seemingly included both a call for requests and , to judge from how quickly the O’Jays responded, the crowd’s reply.

What the O’Jays lack in spontaneity they make up for in professionalism. Backed unobtrusively by a band and horn section, founding members Eddie Levert and Walter Williams traded vocals and dance steps with an ease that can be bred only of longtime familiarity. Their rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Emotionally Yours” melded gospel with soul as deftly as any Al Green hit.

But an O’Jays show is just that--a show--and the music often took a back seat to theatrics. For much of the performance, the singers crooned ballads and made racy remarks to women brought from the audience to sit on the stage. Michael Jackson could learn something from Levert or his colleague Sammy Strain about sensuous groin grabbing.

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Apparently, someone forgot to write an encore into the script, because following a show-stopping rendition of the 1974 hit “For the Love of Money” the concert was over instantly.

The lights came on as the last note faded and Lone Justice immediately blared from the sound system, sure to send the members of any O’Jays crowd packing to their cars.


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