Concert review and photos: R. Kelly concentrates on sex at Fox Theatre show

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R. Kelly hit the stage at the Fox Theatre ready to party Tuesday night. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene

Although R. Kelly played Atlanta a few months ago as part of his “Buffet” tour, the King of R&B is always a popular draw in the city that he occasionally calls home.

His quick run of December dates designed to supplement his “12 Nights of Christmas” album ended with a Tuesday night stop at a sold-out Fox Theatre, where Kelly instigated fans to wave their cell phones in the air, sing along to his dozens of hits – some snippets, some full length – and in one instance, rub the parts of his body you would expect R. Kelly to want rubbed.

R. Kelly is still obsessed with sex. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

R. Kelly is still obsessed with sex. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Here are three takeaways from his latest Atlanta performance.

1. If you came expecting a mature evening of Kelly’s Christmas songs (his “12 Nights of Christmas,” a collection of all-originals, is quite good) and maybe a few of the hits that are safe to play in front of your mom, well, your night didn’t go as planned.

Oh, there was a Christmas tree, a fake fireplace, some holiday-themed visuals and the gliding R&B song “Home for Christmas.” But this Kelly, who strode onstage with a microphone in one hand and a stogie in the other, declared early that he was “drunk as hell,” used a bounty of expletives during his incessant talking between and during songs and, for the first hour of the show, concentrated on sex-obsessed grooves including “The Zoo,” “Strip for You” and “Feelin’ on Yo Booty.”

He also wasted time talking about how good of a show he planned to put on for his fans (here’s an idea, just put on the show) and how “Kellz” (yes, he’s a third-person referencer) was given the rundown backstage about “What I can say, what I can’t say. What I can touch, what I can’t touch.”

2. More than two decades into his career, Kelly still possesses a gorgeous, creamy voice that dips and soars magnificently. It’s too bad we couldn’t hear it over a live band instead of tracks packed with the kind of wincing bass that would knock you off of a speaker riser (Kelly indicated in our recent interview that he would have a band, but one wasn’t visible). On some songs – “Bump N’ Grind,” “Down Low” – Kelly allowed fans to handle the heavy lifting, which they did with apparent joy.

3. While the first chunk of Kelly’s show focused on his favorite topic – the sex shtick has always been an R. Kelly hallmark – he eventually dove into radio-friendly fare including the irresistible “Ignition” (and its rap “Remix”) and other 2000s-era hits, “Fiesta” and ‘I’m a Flirt.” No doubt he’s a tremendous songwriter with infinite ambition – but for a guy about to turn 50, maybe it’s time to tone down the lewdness just a tad.

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