In the post-R. Kelly R&B carnality arms race (or is it an abs race?), 25-year-old Peterburg, Va. native Trey Songz is in little danger of being outgunned. He may one day use his limber tenor to map the terrain of other subjects and emotions, but four albums into a career on which he’s cited Kelly as the prime influence, Songz is, to hear him tell it, a man whose devotion to sex is so pure, so singular, so encompassing, “monastic” is the only word.
Last night at a sold-out DAR Constitution Hall, he prayed a high holy Mass.
The 100-minute session opened with “I Invented Sex” and peaked with “The Neighbors Know My Name.” (Not because they accidentally got some of his mail.) In between, Songz issued a more humble declaration of fealty with no, ha, fooled you. He did snap a photo of the audience, telling us, “There is no me without y’all.” Save for some conspicuous pre-recorded backing vocals, his tour with long-lived R&B star Monica was absent big-venue production gimmicks: the gig succeeded entirely on its star’s vocal power, energy and charisma, all boundless, though you wonder whether he has any other hobbies. Truth, his main addiction might be work: His breakthrough album, “Ready,” is barely a year old, but the follow-up, Passion, Pain & Pleasure drops next week.
“Jupiter Love” — a tame and tender ballad, considering – was the first of several showstoppers, stretching out to epic length while the self-crowned “Prince of Virginia” shouted out various ladies vying for a mention. Objects waved overhead: Angel wings possibly repurposed from a school holiday pageant (or from the Trey’s Angels fan club), a glossy Songz headshot, lacy panties in red, a flip flop. (Come on, lady. You’ve got to want it.) Later, Songz brought a quaking-with-excitement woman onstage to administer a massage, oil and all. He waited until she’d left to demonstrate his more intimate techniques, mimed so as to leave as little to the prurient imagination as his highly-quotable-but-not-in-a-family-newspaper-lyrics.
But “Jupiter Love” sugguested his most PG-rated oath was also his most sacred: “You the shhhhh / Got me turning off my cell phone.” Trey Songz may sing in rhyme, but he doez not speak in riddlez.
A slightly altered version of this review appears in tomorrow’s Washington Post.