BILLY OCEAN in concert Saturday at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, University of Utah. Also appearing was BRENDA RUSSELL. One performance only.Billy Ocean has developed quite a reputation the past few years as a hit-making machine. But Saturday, he proved to Utahns he is also a first-rate performer.
He doesn't just sing. He dances, he glides across the stage, he gyrates, he banters with the audience.
And most of all, he plays his unique brand of rock 'n' soul in such a way to evoke a wildly enthusiastic response. Not just whistles and cheers. But an electricity that had most people dancing in the aisles for almost two hours.
During an energetic rendition of his hit "Lov-erboy," the entire crowd responded by chanting, "lover . . . lover . . . lover" at the appropriate points, virtually drowning the entire output of Ocean and his eight-man band.
And during "Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)," clearly a local favorite, the crowd (along with Billy's sensational female backup singers) sang the entire chorus while Billy just listened, grinning from ear to ear.
During a lengthy rendition of "Stay the Night," Ocean pulled a young woman from the audience to dance with him on stage. She not only danced, but she matched him move-for-exotic-move. The crowd went crazy.
In fact, Billy Ocean knew just what strings to pull, just what things to say and just what order to sing his litany of hit songs to work the crowd into a frenzy. But he did it with such sincerity and passion, you didn't even notice the entire concert was orchestrated down to the last move. You were having too much fun to notice.
Whether you went for romantic ballads like "Suddenly" and "Love Zone" or for soulful rockers like "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" and "Get Out of My Dreams (Get into My Car)," you went home feeling this was one of the most satisfying concerts of the entire summer concert series (the threat of rain forced promoters to move the show from ParkWest to the Huntsman Center).
Also appearing was the delightful Brenda Russell, a singer-songwriter who is beginning to come into her own. Her soft, seductive ballads, such as "Before I Fell in Love" and "Get Here," were enthusiastically received by Salt Lakers who don't often get to see a soul singer of such class.
What was most impressive was the Russell didn't have to leap around the stage or engage in other hackneyed tricks to get the audience into her show. She did it purely with her understated vocal style and her superb knack for likable rhythms.
Perhaps the best tune of the night was the entrancing "Gravity," a syncopated dance tune that's a cut above most.
Unlike other pop stars of the same genre, Brenda writes and produces her own music. And with performances like the one Saturday, Brenda's career is definitely on the way up.