D'Angelo gives good "ugh!"
It comes from deep in the gut, down where dinner is digested, rising up through the sternum and exiting the throat with a grimace befitting a kidney punch recipient.
Then there's his "owwwwww!"
Delivered even more frequently, it's a thing of primal glory, a caveman's come-on, an almost involuntary response it seems, conveying great ecstasy or agony or some sweaty combination of the two.
D'Angelo speaks fluently in this purgative tongue - "ahhhh-uuuhh," "eeee-yy-aaah," the good ol' "y-e-e-a-h-h!" - which rids the body of any pent-up, surplus energy.
He must have plenty of it.
Co-headlining a bill with Mary J. Blige at the Pearl at the Palms on Friday, D'Angelo was taking part in his first tour in more than a decade after a turbulent sabbatical that saw him get arrested on drug charges, among other things.
After releasing a pair of all-time great soul records in 1995's "Brown Sugar" and 2000's "Voodoo," two albums where he embraced the music's past while simultaneously nudging it toward a hip-hop-enhanced future, he hasn't put out a new record in 12 years.
But the man whom venerable music critic Robert Christgau once dubbed "R&B Jesus" seemed fully resurrected on this night.
Entering the room by the soundboard, D'Angelo walked through the crowd, shaking hands and flashing a smile as wide as the stage he was headed toward.
Once there, he led his 10-piece band in a funk trifecta, opening with "Left & Right," all shoulder-rolling bass lines, unchecked guitar swagger and window-steaming sexual innuendo.
Then came a more up-tempo "Brown Sugar" and an exultant "Chicken Grease," where D'Angelo clapped his hands, swished his hips and channeled his R&B forebears.
"I know you love me," he sang repeatedly, starting in an Elvis-esque drawl before approaching a Prince-worthy falsetto and ending in a James Brown screech.
While he appeared a bit beefier than when he was baring his sculpted abs in videos and on album covers, D'Angelo's voice remained in top shape.
MUSICAL MUSCLE RELAXER
It's a thing of supple, laidback beauty, a musical muscle relaxer.
Even when he's threatening to shoot his woman and best friend after finding them in bed together, as he did on a song whose title is unfit for print, he still sounded supremely cool, collected.
This gave to way to some highly charged vocal gymnastics on "Cruisin' " and "Untitled (How Does it Feel)," which D'Angelo played alone onstage, seated at a piano, his voice an elevator rocketing between floors, up and down, up and down.
The hourlong set ended with a new song, "Sugar Daddy," one of two D'Angelo performed.
Amid high-stepping piano lines and a series of false endings, it built into a climactic funk jam, with D'Angelo directing his band in a series of forceful gesticulations that looked as if he was trying to pull-start an invisible lawnmower.
"I ain't done yet," he howled, talking about the song, but perhaps intimating a bit more.
If D'Angelo has emerged from a number of years darkened by tumult, Mary J. Blige can relate.
She frequently gives voice to the hurdling of life's obstacles - and by "obstacles," we mean no-good dudes, mainly.
"I want to be a messenger, someone who's not afraid to pass along wisdom," she said in a pre-taped intro played just before she took the stage following D'Angelo.
That may sound a bit grandiose, but Blige's self-help maxims have been hard-earned, her heart a piñata.
"Trust and know that I've been where you're at, seen the things that you can see," she sang on "Good Woman Down." "Lookin' at you resembles me, but you gotta hold your own."
A lesser presence might garner eye rolls with lines like that, but not Blige, a thunderbolt in thigh-high boots who doesn't sing her words so much as expel them from her body like something she must get out of her system or face internal damage.
At the Pearl, she alternated R&B pep talks ("Just Fine," "Enough Cryin,'" a cover of the Gap Band's "Outstanding") with cathartic, emotional wellsprings ("Feel Inside," "No More Drama," "Mr. Wrong").
On a particularly vehement "Not Gon' Cry," she performed hunched over, hand on her belly, as if she was singing with such force it was taking a physical toll on her, roiling her insides.
At song's end, she acted as if she was wiping a tear from her eye, only to stand up and wag her finger "no."
It was a powerful bit of pantomime.
Even when she had no more words to say, Blige still had a message to impart.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.