“Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is all about love,” said singer Alexander O’Neal at one point during this show, and despite the unmistakeably corny air attached to such sentiments, there were plenty in this hall willing to indulge them.
The Mississippi-raised, Minneapolis-forged O’Neal may peddle a smooth sort of neo-soul whose vintage dates quite clearly back to the 1980s, but with a large group of skilled musicians and two powerful backing singers around him – not to mention a breathless and distinctive vocal which he himself compared to a trombone - this context rarely allowed his music to sound stale.
“I want to remind you guys, this is not a concert,” the 60-year-old further soft-soaped his largely middle-aged post-Christmas crowd, “it’s a party.”
If so, it was a largely understated kind of affair, with loose-limbed pseudo-funk like "All True Man" and the low-key, come-to-bed crooning of "If You Were Here Tonight" and "Hearsay" packing out the bulk of a set which ambled rather than strode.
Yet O’Neal’s clutch of bona fide international hits were well-handled and grouped together for maximum impact at the end, including the hard to resist "Saturday Love", a take on "Criticize" which saw the audience joining in loudly before he had finished the a cappella intro, and a closing "Fake" which proved raw and organic in this live setting.