The faithful that nearly filled the Forum (ironically now a very large church since being purchased by a local ministry four years ago) came to see the top R&B hitmaker of the past 10 years ply his trademark songs on sex. They got what they wanted, as R. Kelly strutted onstage clothed in a black Lakers jersey (with Shaquille O’Neal’s 34) and, curiously, a black Zorro-like mask to adulatory applause that lasted more than a minute. No cares, for this crowd, that he goes on trial in September on child porn charges.
Kelly cut down on his thick catalogue by distilling most of his greatest hits to snippets of “Down Low,” “Bump N’ Grind,” “Your Body’s Callin’,” “You Remind Me of Something,” etc. Never straying from the theme that brought him his fame, R. Kelly is a Zen master at mixing mundane vernacular with forays into all things sex. A new song, “Sex in the Kitchen,” used metaphors such as “butter on a roll,” which the crowd approved of mightily.
Kelly shifted gears midway into his hour and a half set when he dedicated the Leon Russell-penned “A Song for You” to his late mother, which underscored the ease with which he masterfully shifts from gut R&B to hip-hop to pop. He closed with this year’s bouncing “Step,” in which he called members of the audience to the stage to dance with him.
Neither Kelly nor opener Ashanti had a band. Entire evening was one big DAT playback, taking away the spontaneity and specialness of experiencing both artists and audience meshing with live music.