In Da Club: Faith Evans at the Quest

When Faith Evans opened for Dru Hill at Northrop Auditorium six years ago, the voice was a revelation--strong and daring enough to rival Aretha and Mary J. for swoop and holler excitement. But the setting was nearly as buppie and urbane as a Luther Vandross gig. Last Tuesday at the Quest on her first trip back to town since the Northrop show, the crowd was sparse, and Faith was fighting a cold, sweating like a mule on a stage she wryly noted was "300 degrees." But the audience was real--no wannabe gangstas or queens for a day, just working-class hardcore fans from the neighborhood--and Faith noticed, spilling her soul all over more than two dozen tunes for nearly 90 minutes. Because her records keep getting better, she's able to invert the traditional concert set, leading with the old crowd-pleasers and closing with the new classics. The highlight came with a pair of riveting baby-makers from the debut album, and then a raw yet tender rendition of "Soon As I Get Home" that encompassed the sensuality, patience, and persevering grit of the African American matriarchy as much as any one song could. The closing sextet of fresh tunes wasn't too shabby either, concluding with the gospelish "Again" and the old-school soul of "Mesmerized." Through two costume changes, Faith remained bare-shouldered, and the tattoo of her late husband, Biggie Smalls, glistened above her right breast.

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