Craig David, Brighton Centre, Brighton

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The Independent Culture

Craig David is a man of mixed messages. His R&B grooves can be edgy and urban, but the soppiness of his lyrics can make you gag. While his singing oozes grown-up sophistication, tracks such as "Hands up in the Air" and "Time to Party" ("Everybody's feeling right/ 'Cos we know it's party night") are clearly aimed at children.

Tonight he appears on stage as the Virgin Craig, dressed head to toe in white, with gleaming teeth to match. It soon becomes clear, however, that behind the Daz-fresh façade there's a red-hot lover struggling to get out. Things start getting steamy with "What's Your Flava", ostensibly an ode to ice cream, which quickly descends into salacious sexual fantasy ("Girls I'm feeling 'em/ Can't stop lickin' 'em). By the time he gets to "Fast Cars", a song that finds him "checking out your bodywork" and "disarming your system", the temperature has gone through the roof. It's no wonder, then, that the Brighton Centre echoes with the yelps of teenage girls and their clearly smitten mums. More surprisingly, there are boys of all ages and trouser-widths.

It's probably more by accident than design that the boy from the Southampton suburbs is pop's Everyman. Men admire his smooth moves and dextrous rapping, while the laydeez admire the golden voice and the puppy-dog eyes.

Yet these are difficult times for David. Having shot to the top of the charts with his debut single "Fill Me In" three years ago and found himself fêted by Bono and Elton John (surely a curse for any rising star), he has reached what marketing types might call a career plateau. His second album, Slicker than Your Average, performed badly, and his attempts to crack America were hampered by US radio stations that criticised his decision to employ a white guitarist.

Given the pure perfection of his singing voice, you don't imagine he's got a lot to worry about. In an earlier existence, David could easily have given Stevie Wonder a run for his money. Even on the schlocky numbers such as "You Don't Miss Your Water (Til' the Well Runs Dry)" and "Seven Days" - you know, they met on Monday, got naked on Wednesday - you can't help but be carried along by that silky-smooth voice. This is a man who can scale an octave in the blink of an eye and rhyme with the best of them. "Spanish", with its flamenco-style instrumentals, is pure cheese on record; live, it's more like honey dripping off hot toast.

I had expected to be bored out of my skull, but for the most part Craig David had me on the edge of my hard, plastic seat. The songs may suck, but, damn it, this boy knows how to sing them.

Craig David's UK tour continues until Sunday