The R&B “supergroup” Lucy Pearl made their impressive L.A.-area debut at the overflowing House of Blues, where the trio and their fine backing band brought together winning elements of hip-hop, soul, classic rock and funk for a highly entertaining and enjoyable evening.
Lucy Pearl includes singer and multi-instrumentalist Raphael Saadiq, formerly of vocal group Tony! Toni! Tone!; ex-En Vogue vocalist Dawn Robinson, who quit that group in 1997 for a solo career that never materialized; and DJ/percussionist Ali Shaheed of defunct rap crew A Tribe Called Quest. The rookie act proudly boasted the best qualities of those popular groups.
Sunday’s 95-minute perf comprised numerous cuts from Lucy Pearl’s excellent and just-released debut album “Lucy Pearl” (Pookie Records/Beyond Music) — such as an extended version of “Don’t Mess With My Man,” a showcase for Robinson’s soulful style, and the smooth “Without You,” which featured cool vox from Saadiq and sweet harmonies from three back-up singers — as well as some hit songs by the members’ previous bands.
Lucy Pearl, both on album and onstage, avoids the common supergroup pitfall of over-ambitiousness by taking small musical bites that don’t endeavor to overwhelm the audience. In fact, the group turns very little new musical soil but is well adept at incorporating some well-worn styles into fresh and contemporary sounds.
Other highlights included a pair of A Tribe Called Quest songs (offered in abbreviated versions), the crowd fave “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” and “Benita Applebum”; Tony! Toni! Tone!’s celebratory “Feels Good”; and “Just Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” from En Vouge’s break-through “Funky Divas” set. Saadiq also displayed an impressive command of electric guitar during “Lucy Pearl Rock,” essentially a remake of “Jailhouse Rock.”
Rapper Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, who came onstage for a too-brief appearance, and Magic Johnson, whose smiling face could often be seen on the club’s many video screens, were among the stars in the house. A mention of the Lakers’ victory earlier in the day brought the loudest cheers of the night. Show closed with a lengthened rendition of Lucy Pearl’s hit “Dance Tonight” that ended in a big rock jam.