Cee Lo Green boasts a luxurious voice, a selection of superlative songs and an incredibly sexy backing band.
His other group, Gnarls Barkley, shot to global stardom with the hit “Crazy.” Green repeated the trick with the solo single “Forget You.” Put this together for a tour -- swinging through Europe this month and the U.S. in June -- and Green should have a winning combination.
Sadly, at U.K. dates, his live show underwhelms.
His voice should be the star of the show. Inexplicably, it comes doused in reverb, depleting both its subtlety and power.
The man known for his pink zoot suits this time chooses to dress casually. His curves are covered with a plain black T-shirt, and his main concession to bling is an exceptionally sparkly jeweled cross hanging from his neck.
Green veers close to pastiche as he plays with some peerless influences. The tune of “Bright Lights Bigger City” recalls Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” “Satisfied” might work for Diana Ross.
Scarlet Fever, Cee Lo’s female backing band, plays with gusto. Its four members are famed for their stiletto boots and catsuits. They now favor simple black. Regina Zernay Roberts plucks tendon-tight bass lines from beneath a dark sunhat. Sharon Aguilar entices with funky guitar caresses.
Gusto isn’t enough. The strings and horns of the album are replaced with keyboards, robbing songs of their magic sheen.
The show is based around “The Lady Killer,” Green’s recent solo album, an unabashed recreation of classic soul sounds.
A few Gnarls Barkley songs are played. Their starker, spidery textures fare better. “Crazy” is taken at a faster, breathless pace and turns into a tour-de-force of deviant pop.
Then “Forget You” arrives in its uncensored version, with its sweet hook and perfectly deployed profanity. A jolly romp through the Grammy-winning song gave the enthusiastic crowds what they came for at the U.K. shows. If only the whole evening had been so good.
Green plays dates across Europe including Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Zurich this month before the Coachella Festival on April 15 and then across the U.S., joining with Rihanna’s tour from June 4.
His CD is on Elektra/ Roadrunner Records, priced from $12.98 in the U.S. and 8.99 pounds in the U.K. Download fees vary across services.
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(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)