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R. Kelly

There is probably not another singer in any genre who can claim to be as single-minded as R. Kelly. From the moment he steps onstage for his hugely entertaining show, Kelly has only one thing on his mind: sex.

There is probably not another singer in any genre who can claim to be as single-minded as R. Kelly. From the moment he steps onstage for his hugely entertaining show, Kelly has only one thing on his mind: sex.

The set list for Kelly’s show reads like a page from Craigslist’s “Casual Encounters” page: “Sex in the Kitchen,” “Sex Weed,” “Strip for You,” “Feelin’ on Yo Booty” (performed both straight and, with Kelly donning a cape, top hat and mask and standing in front of a music stand, in broadly mock-operatic style). If he’s not singing about actually doing the deed, he’ll tell you how he plans to get “the ladies” in the mood to do the deed; if he’s not singing about that, he’s boasting about the many ways he can satisfy those ladies — including a long list of synonyms for how they’ll feel once he’s done with them that culminates with “bobble-headed.”

The music is as unwavering as the singer — mostly slow vamps with plenty of room for vocal improvisation. In the tradition of Marvin Gaye and Ronnie Isley, Kelly croons his seductions in a high reedy tenor equipped with just the right amount of tremolo to sound sincerely vulnerable. He can also, when needed, drop down into a growl or turn into a pleading, pure-voiced preacher, albeit one who advises his flock to yield to the temptation.

The show reaches its lunatic climax with the first three chapters of “Trapped in the Closet” — Kelly’s magnum opus, a steamy soap opera (now 12 chapters and counting) that piles on the cliffhangers. Kelly doesn’t even bother to sing. What “Mr. Show Biz” (as a neon sign that opens and closes the show calls him) really wants to do is act, as he lip-synchs, wildly acting out the parts of the straying wife, her aggrieved husband (soon revealed to be a pastor) and his gay lover. It’s an act of hubris that could destroy most performers, but Kelly is so invested in his perf, he almost manages to make it work.

R. Kelly

Gibson Amphitheater; 6,089 seats; $65 top

Production: Presented by House of Blues Concerts. Opened and reviewed May 6, 2006, closed May 7.

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