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Friday, March 24, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Concert Preview

Chris Brown, triple threat: singer, dancer, songwriter

Seattle Times music critic

Concert preview


Chris Brown, 9 tonight, Showbox, 1426 First Ave., Seattle; $25 (all ages/bar with ID; 800-992-TIXX, www.ticketswest.com; information: 206-628-3151, www.showboxonline.com. Sold out as of press time).

Like Michael Jackson doing the Moonwalk, Chris Brown can thrill with his dance moves.

The new R&B singing sensation has this thing about standing on his toes, sometimes with just one foot, that makes you think: How does he do that? Moving to fast beats, he bends his body every which way, like he has a rubber backbone and moves his arms and hands with drama and flair, grabbing his baseball cap or puffy vest like props.

What's more amazing is that he's just 16 (turning 17 in May), and is a triple threat: singer, dancer, songwriter. He looks older because he's tall and self-assured, but he has a boy-next-door sweetness and a million-watt smile.

Is it any wonder he's hailed as the next big thing? He was even the coverboy of last month's Vibe magazine, over the headline, "The Future of R&B."

It's all happening fast for Brown, who first played here last December, headlining the Jingle Bell Bash at the Tacoma Dome, just one month after the release of his debut "Chris Brown" album. At that time, his first single, "Run It!," about dancing and partying with friends, was No. 1 across the boards — the Billboard Hot 100 Singles, Hot Singles Sales, Top 40 Rhythm, Hot 100 Airplay and R&B/Hip-Hop Mainstream charts.

Its follow-up, "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)," a midtempo come-on song, is currently in the Hot 100 Top Ten. The album peaked at No. 2 and has sold more than a million copies.

The videos, which show all that dancing and charm, have been key to Brown's success. He wrote the treatment for both, according to Vibe, and wants to direct his next one.

The Vibe article only adds to his charm, telling how he surprised everyone, even his mother, when he starred in his third-grade Christmas play, "Elf-

is," in his small hometown (2,000 pop.) of Tappahannock, Va., imitating Elvis Presley, remembering all his lines and doing the Moonwalk.

He was a local basketball star from sixth grade on, moving up to varsity in just the 10th grade. He enjoyed the hometown-sports limelight as much as the musical one.

After that third-grade show, when his mother (his parents are divorced) realized his special gift, she encouraged him to perform every chance he got and had song demos made, which she sent off to record labels.

Tina Davis, a vice president of Def Jam, heard him on a demo, had him come to the office, where he danced up a storm, but was unable to sign him to the label because she was fired in the wake of the Def Jam/Rock-A-Fella Records merger.

Brown and his mother wanted to stick with Davis and asked her to be his manager. She took on the job, and within weeks signed him to Jive Records, a better fit for Brown because it's more of a teen dance-oriented label than a rap/hip-hop/gangsta label.

The Showbox gig tonight is likely to be among his last club dates. He's sure to be on some big, multi-act arena tour this summer, and by the end of the year will be headlining on his own.

The Showbox stage is tiny and that may hold him back. With all the talent he has to offer, he needs a big stage to play on.

Patrick MacDonald: 206-464-2312 or pmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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