Music » Livewire

Brian McKnight

With Joe. Sunday, May 6, at the State Theatre.

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Brian McKnight's video for the single "What's My Name," from the 2006 album Ten, depicts the R&B singer as a one-man band. Multiples of McKnight are not only singing, but tickling the keys, teasing the bass, and smoothly tapping the drums on what is one of the vocalist's signature slow jams. But as it turns out, he's not playacting; McKnight can actually play all of those instruments and several more -- even, apparently, the French horn.

Though he's still under 40, McKnight has been considered an old R&B soul throughout his career. This despite the fact that a new McKnight song, "Used to Be My Girl," is nothing like the wistful tune of the same name that the O'Jays rocked back in the '70s. Instead, it's music that could only come from a modern mind -- a blunt take on dating that finds a dude teasingly putting his ex-girl's new guy in his place. In other words, there's a little edge and surprise in what might sound like a middle-of-the-road package. There's even a sense that McKnight not only enjoys being underestimated, but thrives on it. That in itself could make for a compelling live performance.

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