Recorded two months before his hospitalization for a serious stroke, Live 2003 at Radio City Music Hall
is a welcome addition to the Luther Vandross
' discography with absolutely no foreshadowing of the devastating event. Those who have only been exposed to his smooth croon on record are in for a treat. The cool pillow talk of his studio recordings is performed perfectly here, but live Vandross
adds improvisational twists, stunning vocal theatrics, and some of the most entertaining banter with an audience ever heard. Absolutely effervescent (he declares at least half the songs "my favorite") the singer wins over the audience right away and it just keeps building from there. The band is tight, with Nat Adderley Jr.
as leader and on keyboards, but vocals are the thing. You can always count on Vandross
to have the best background singers, and here his interaction with them surpasses anything on his studio albums (their playful exchange on "Creepin'" is unbelievable). A slower "Here and Now" is monolithic and the 13 minutes of "Superstar" fly by like it was nothing. Going back to his days in the group Change
for "Glow of Love" is a nice nod to the hardcore fans and a perfect, shimmering, disco closer. The keyboards could sure use an update from their '80s presets and Vandross
' visual references don't come off so well on a mere CD, but these are small complaints. If there ever was an argument that you can own every one of his studio albums and still only know half the story, this proves it.