Alicia Keys

Keys & Legend concert review    ·    March 25th, 2005

Organizers had the right idea when they decided to pair John Legend, an artist on the “come up,” with the accomplished Alicia Keys for a tour. The two artists certainly seem to operate with the same spirit of raw, from-the-soul artistry. However, since today’s artists typically need a host of choreographed dancers, pyrotechnics, props, etc. to make a show compelling enough to woo potential concertgoers, would Keys and Legend be enough, considering they rely mainly on charisma and heart-felt vocals to get their points across? To avoid unnecessary suspense, absolutely! They successfully held their own at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, performing to an enthused melting pot of fans.

A fledgling German artist, who, unfortunately, didn’t quite have it together, kicked off the sold-out show; but shortly thereafter, Legend entered the stage and “lifted” the crowd by performing “Get Lifted” from his critically acclaimed debut album. He only has the one relatively new album in major distribution, but that didn’t prevent the show from becoming a sing-along for the many fans that apparently have very quickly familiarized themselves with his body of work. But, since he was one of the opening acts, he was treated as such. There was a lot of movement and the house lights were up during his entire performance, but his energy managed to produce a natural spotlight of sorts. He arrested the audience’s attention and rewarded them for it. The unassuming Legend went on to employ his gritty, yet pure vocal styling to delight the audience with spirited performances of “Used to Love You,” the Uncle Snoop influenced, “I Can Change,” and an emotion-evoking rendition of the hit “Ordinary People,” among others. He finished his set to a standing ovation.

After Legend exited the stage and the curtain was dropped, attention was drawn to the right of the stage, where a modest little piano and vintage lamp remained outside the curtains. It seemed to be the place where Keys was going to sit and croon the night away, which didn’t seem unusual since she’s known for her simplicity. We patiently waited, and before long, a gentleman dressed as someone from the Big Band era emerged from backstage and began calling on the divas of old, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, etc. Citing that none of them would be able to appear, he promised to deliver a comparable substitute – Alicia Keys, and up went the curtain to reveal a dazzling, 30’s style, luminous all-white set, with the musicians and background singers all grouped off Cabaret style. Keys then entered, stylishly dressed in white, complete with a period sequined, feather head dressing. She was gorgeous! She managed to light up an already bright stage, energetically bopping and singing her way through a medley of some of her hits set to horn-laden, swing music. It was quite the grand – and unexpected - entrance and it set the stage for a comprehensive show that included a string highlights.

Of the show’s many highlights, one was her dramatic performance of “Heartburn,” where she provocatively performed stretched out on a chaise lounge, while being fanned by her incredible background vocalists. They were very convincing. And speaking of background vocalists, she must’ve hired some of the best in the business. When Alicia took breaks for costume changes, they interjected beautiful renditions of “Hidey, Hidey Ho,” “God Bless the Child,” and other timeless classics, preparing the atmosphere for Keys to come back and deliver a mesmerizing version of “Good Morning Heartache.” She did it proud.

After that reminiscent segment, Alicia got back to her own catalogue, impressively rendering all her hits, including “My Boo,” “You Don’t Know My Name,” “A Woman’s Worth,” “Diary,” and “Fallin.” The intro to “Fallin” was so dramatic it wasn’t immediately known what she was leading up to. She made her way to the center of the stage, assumed a sideways position, then started belting out a note that most have probably never heard her hit. After the fourth wail, she transitioned into “I keep on fallin …” You know the rest. She rocked it, and then wrapped her performance up by mounting her grand piano and singing the largely popular, “If I Aint Got You.” She, no doubt, gave the fans their money’s worth.

This was one of the better shows that I’ve attended in a long time. Though neither Keys nor Legend are known for being a vocal powerhouse, they both utilize their collective talents well and perform from their souls. They make you appreciate and long for genuine artistic expression. If it comes anywhere near you, catch this show – it’s hot.



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