Source: The Vancouver Sun
Alicia Keys made a spectacular entrance Sunday at GM Place, and she pulled it off without the aid of a theatrical gimmick or special effect.
Keys, quite simply, is loved. Riding high on the release of a single, albeit multi-Grammy-winning album, the young artist has gained a devoted 20-something audience with her sophisticated mix of new R & B, soul and hip hop.
Appearing backlit at the top of a short staircase on a set of brownstone buildings -- a direct reference to her Manhattan roots -- Keys appeared alongside a backing band a dozen strong, including a three-piece horn section and three back-up singers.
Keys got her momentum early with an uproariously funky stop-and-go version of Prince's How Come You Don't Call Me. She didn't stray far from her keyboards, which faced out toward the audience of 5,200, except when she sauntered from corner to corner of the stage to address her screaming fans, which she happily did throughout the two-hour show. She entered a phone booth at one point in the Prince song to apparently hang up on a jerk boyfriend -- thankfully one of the few gimmicky touches in a mostly strong show.
Keys proved herself to be a dynamic and gifted performer, and despite her limited touring experience (she's only 21), she makes the job look as effortless as would a seasoned pro.
Someone has also put serious effort and bucks into assembling a spot-on backing band, because Keys quite happily shared the spotlight with musicians as talented as herself (most notably her singers). When she did have the spotlight entirely to herself, she'd riff about spiritual/emotional matters with a steamy sax for accompaniment, or dig into her stark, grown-up, classically flavoured piano songs, showcasing her powerful range and smokey vocals.
Not all of Keys' material is successful -- some songs are downright forgettable. And the show lost serious momentum with a throwaway rap interlude that included silly references to Michael Jackson and generally tuneless material that amounted to what felt like filler. It probably also served as a break for Keys, since she left the stage for that portion of the show and returned later in a different outfit. The segment felt oddly out of sync with Keys' emotionally stark, resonant performance.
She'd have fared far better in a more intimate setting, one with less echo (the side seats suffered from bad sound) and a few less drunks in the crowd (i.e., the lady who screamed into her cell phone for the first three songs). The more mature members of the audience might have gone home slightly disappointed by a show that was, at times, disjointed and lacking focus. Next time around, the obviously talented Keys will have to decide who her audience is.
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