It was a heartwarming homecoming for Keyshia Cole.

The Oakland R&B star was greeted on Sunday night at the Fox Theater by her enthusiastic local fan base, which sang along with gusto to nearly every tune performed.

Unfortunately, the performance itself wasn't all that impressive. The theatrics were old hat. The dancing was rather pedestrian. The vocals were uneven. The songs were so-so. And, most troubling, the show lost focus and momentum as the night progressed.

In all, it was an evening that underscored many of the reasons why this 31-year-old singer has so far failed to move up into the A-list of contemporary soul singers.

Cole has done a good job remaining relevant during a professional career that stretches back to the 2005 debut "The Way It Is." All five of her studio albums, including last year's "Woman to Woman," have charted in the top 10. She's starred in two reality TV shows -- the most recent of which was "Keyshia & Daniel: Family First," an eight-episode series that aired on the BET network in the fall.

Despite all that, it took a feud with Beyoncé to get Cole back in the headlines. It's a shame that a tweet from Cole, chiding slamming Beyonce's "Bow Down" song, was able to get her the type of media attention that her records couldn't.


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I was hoping that her homecoming show at the lovely downtown Oakland venue would help sweep all of that under the carpet. Instead, it only highlighted that Cole can't count on her live show to keep her name out there.

She did, however, look great -- taking the stage in a cute white dress that complemented her platinum hair. The first offering, "Shoulda Let You Go" from 2007's "Just Like You," was one of the strongest of the night. She followed with another winner, "I Changed My Mind" from "The Way It Is."

Even though the first few songs sounded good, the staging and theatrics were rather mundane. She initially performed in front of a simple backdrop, a curtain that depicted an urban block (perhaps in Oakland?). It looked like something created for a high school musical, and that vibe was reinforced as her dancers ran through routines that could've been designed for a cheer squad.

The curtain lifted revealing an peculiar stage set that mixed a street scene and a home's interior in which there was definitely a party going on, with guys riding bikes and people dancing on the stairs.

But the guest of honor didn't stick around for long. Cole exited the stage for far longer than it should have taken for a wardrobe change, which put a damper on the festivities.

When she returned, wearing a pink and gray leotard, things didn't really improve. That was due mainly to a mediocre musical mix delivered by a drummer, two keyboardists and a DJ. The songs felt canned -- except for the vocals, which weren't nearly as strong as what you'll find on the actual albums.

The show grew more mismanaged and awkward as the night progressed, finally drawing to a close, a little more than an hour after it begun, with an anticlimactic encore that featured "Enough of No Love."

There was plenty of love for Cole on this night. The hometown fans were great. It's just too bad that the star couldn't match their performances.

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.