Jennifer Hudson can sing. And she can shout, roar, cry and whisper. Yeah, she over-sings everything, that’s the American Idol way. But her voice is so sensationally strong that it might take decades before the 27-year-old even considers calming it down. Meanwhile, I say for her, let it rip.
A well-dressed, somewhat fancy crowd packed the Palace Tuesday night for the double-header of Hudson and Robin Thicke. And while the show kicked off Hudson’s first headline tour, the night seemed to move without a hitch, besides being a drop behind schedule.
She opened with “One Night Only,” “Invisible,” “We Gon’ Fight,” and “You Pulled Me Through,” a ballad with a tinge of Hudson’s gospel side, driven by her soul band that played it with the drama of a pop act.
Hudson travels a range of scales — and decibels — for every song, sometimes moving two or three octaves within a chorus.
She performed a “Dreamgirls” medley, starting with the upbeat “Love You I Do.” She followed with the theatrical “I Can Change,” topped off with sharp accents from the horn section that pushed Hudson into her highest scales of the night.
When the Palace finally settled, it erupted instantly when Hudson chimed the first note of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” her anti-breakup anthem. She sang this hard, and you can only wonder what her voice will sound like after her 10th or 20th show. No matter, we got to see the first and her voice didn’t waver for a nanosecond, nor did she seem like she was interested in preserving it. Good to have young vocal chords.
We got a break with a light but classy instrumental sans Hudson, then came the emotional and soulful “I Believe in Music,” which she personalized, insisting everyone sing the chorus with her. From there she slid into the finale of the night, which included “Pocketbook,” “If This Isn’t Love,” and the encore “Spotlight.”
Hudson is a star and she was definitely special to see.
Thicke opened the show with the same full-tilt R&B band that supported Hudson. Now that’s a lot of playing for the musicians, but economical for management. Still, the group blasted with searing horns, the high-sticking mayhem drummer, dancing female back-up vocals, and then himself — the sex-appealing ’70s soulman. He spent most of his one-hour set in a falsetto voice crooning his newer songs like “The Sweetest Love,” “Magic” and “You’re My Baby.”
He borrows from Michael Jackson on some, and the Motown side of Stevie Wonder on others, like on “Shadow of Doubt.” A true R&B lover, he sang about Marvin Gaye and played some Al Greene and Bob Marley.
Thicke elicited collective craziness from the mostly female crowd when he dropped to one knee to sing a verse. A young woman sacrificed her throat to repeatedly scream into the music, “I love you,” enough for her friend to move her seat.
He offered kind and hopeful words for President Barack Obama before singing “Dreamworld,” calling for a world without racism and poverty. A smart warm-up act for Hudson’s big show.