Heavy rock co-opted the term for its ironically titled summer concert caravans, but the real Family Values tour rolled through Boston on Sunday, when Eddie and Gerald Levert brought ''An Evening With Father & Son" to the Orpheum for 2 hours of good-natured ribbing, genetically endowed riffing, and some of the smoothest, classiest R&B around.
Eddie, the 62-year-old dad, is the lead vocalist for the O'Jays, who yesterday were selected to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gerald, the 38-year-old son, is a successful songwriter, producer, and solo artist. Both are robust singers whose affection for the music and for each other made for a night of extraordinarily warm dialogues -- both musical and familial -- that seamlessly spanned nearly four decades. At one point Eddie looked askance at Gerald's sexy moves, to which Gerald responded, ''I got it from you."
Following a taped introduction whose message about traditional family roles was, unfortunately, as old-school as the music, the duo wasted no time getting down to the multigenerational harmonizing and hip-thrusting. The O'Jays' ''Family Reunion" was for obvious reasons a natural opener and established the show's endlessly convivial, upbeat tone.
Unlike most duos, the Leverts are more interested in letting each other shine than competing for the spotlight. During a handful of tracks from their 1995 collaboration, ''Father and Son," the pair exchanged vocal licks like Christmas gifts -- graciously and generously. On ''I Got You" and ''Already Missing You," they sang the praises of blood bonds rather than romantic interludes, and they turned a smoldering rendition of the O'Jays' ''You Got Your Hooks in Me" into a heated counseling session -- with son advising father on matters of female entanglements.
The concert was a celebration of not only family roots but also, Gerald noted, their family's musical inspirations. In that spirit they performed a saucy cover of Bill Withers's ''Just the Two of Us," ''Practice What You Preach" (a Gerald-penned hit for Barry White), a touching take on Luther Vandross's ''Dance With My Father," and Ray Charles's raucous ''What'd I Say." Gerald's brother and early musical partner Sean Levert sauntered onstage (to the tune of ''Shaft") in a mock-surprise appearance midway through the show to represent ''the bad boys" and launched, to the mock-horror of his sibling and parent, into Rick James's ''Give It to Me Baby."
In brief solo sets, Eddie careened through abbreviated but crowd-thrilling revivals of ''Backstabbers," ''Love Train," and ''Let Me Make Love to You," and Gerald tossed his trademark teddy bears into the eager arms of female fans while delivering soulful takes on his own ''Made to Love You," ''Funny," ''U Got That Love (Call It a Night)," and ''Crucify Me." But it was the chemistry between the two that supplied the night's real soul. It transcended the Hallmark-strength schmaltz of the show closer, ''Wind Beneath My Wings," which father and son performed on facing stools, with their eyes locked and smiles on their faces, and for the first time the words seemed to mean something.
Joan Anderman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org