Alexander O’Neal put a packed Dakota Jazz Club in the holiday spirit Thursday night with a solid performance of 1980s soul.
After his first number, the veteran Twin Cities R&B star said he was breathing hard. “You know why? Because I’m getting too old for this,” he said. O’Neal, 57, managed to make it through a sweaty 70-minutes of vintage lover-man soul and classic Minneapolis Sound funk.
Plus, as promised, he did some seasonal tunes, including the chestnut “Christmas Song” with sophisticated panache, the smooth “My Gift to You” (title track of his 1988 yule album) and his own “Sleigh Ride,” which galloped like a Time-less Minneapolis Sound tune with guest drummer Bobby Z, of Prince & the Revolution fame and O’Neal’s recent producer.
Although a little winded, O’Neal was in pretty good voice. His voice seemed to fade in and out, which had more to do with the Grinch who hotwired the sound system than the singer. (Overall, O’Neal and his keyboard-dominated band weren’t loud enough.) O’Neal turned it out on “Criticize,” and he had women swooning during  “Sunshine” and “If You Were Here Tonight.”
He declined requests for duets he’d recorded with Cherrelle, and he didn’t do “Fake,” one of his bigger hits. Maybe it wasn’t appropriate for a holiday show.
O’Neal had a different gift for his fans. At his merchandise table, he introduced his new cologne, Criticize, which will be soon marketed in London for about $60 a bottle. At the Dakota, it was a stocking-stuffer, hometown discount price of only $20.
Opening was Jordis Unga, the homegirl who has remained in Los Angeles since appearing on TV’s “Rock Star: INXS” in 2005. Accompanied only by her brother Matiu on acoustic guitar, she showed an intriguing vocal style despite doing covers of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which have become so ubiquitous and common place.

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