A repeated loop from the intro of Frank Sinatra's "(Theme from) New York, New York" set the tone for Joe (Thomas)'s extended set in Central Park, where he performed before a large crowd of avid fans that came out in large numbers in spite of the intense heat and humidity.
He came in impeccably dressed in suit and tie but, given the soaring temperatures, soon shed those layers and performed the rest of the show in a tank top. "You are a big part of our success," Joe acknowledged after kicking off the show with three upbeat uninterrupted numbers. "After 16 years in this business, we couldn't have gotten here without y'all." It also didn't hurt that his recently released Signature (Kedar/Universal) had just reached the top of the R&B chartswhich made this free show all the more interesting to all.
Joe's style is a cohesive mix of classic and contemporary soulsort of a cross between Maxwell and Luther Vandross. During his show, he played strong, funky dance-oriented tunes accompanied by sexy, soulful ballads that were interrupted only when he picked up a solo guitar to serenade the crowd with two new songs. Though he initially showcased new material during the show's earlier moments, halfway through he began playing crowd-pleasers like "I'm In Luv," "I Wanna Know" and "All the Things (Your Man Won't Do)," which had thousands in the audience singing along with him.
His seven-piece band exhibited great chemistry, providing just the right texture for his velvet voice when playing ballads while giving the necessary thump for the more rhythmic melodies.
The high point of the set came at the end, when Joe paid tribute to Michael Jackson with a medley that included three songs from the late singer's Thriller, "Rock With You," "Human Nature" and "Billie Jean," the latter of which served also for the musicians to show their individual talents. The finale, moreover, was demonstrably well receivedturning a superior overall performance into one of this season's most memorable open-air concerts thus far.
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