Alicia Keys is a huge star in the entertainment industry, and it doesnt take her dozens of appearances on the Oprah show to convince me of that. She's backed by music powerhouse Clive Davis and has thrown out hit after hit ever since appearing on the music radar years ago. While she's toured before, her current tour is her biggest yet, and it started here in Chicago Wednesday night.
"The Element of Freedom Tour" follows the recently released album of the same name, and it's a very good album. However, Keys has problems in the delivery of her show. While she's a very powerful, independently strong woman, her songs and video images just don't match up. While throwing up words like "freedom" and pictures of Martin Luther King, Keys was busy singing dopey, fast-paced love songs and doing her best "Sasha Fierce" impression. Understandably in this day in age to compete with the Beyonce's, Lady GaGa's, and Britney's you just can't just sit at a piano all night...however its on the piano where Keys does her best work. Oh by the way...Keys is smoking hot, wether she's dancing or playing piano.
The night started with newcomer Melanie Fiona, who had a solid performance as an opener, highlighted by her hit "It Kills Me". Up next was an energetic set by crowd favorite Robin Thicke. With an arena filled with mostly women, Thicke had the ladies in his hands all night long, dressed upas a grown up Justin Timberlake in a suit. The band was solid, and the songs he chose connected with the crowd very well, especialy for a balladeer. Thicke went with to the Lil' Wayne well twice, with a fun performance of the Lil' Wayne assisted "Shooter", an under-appreciated favorite, while still getting great reactions for the love songs, especially his current hit "Sex Therapy". Thicke's show looked more like a modern version of old Marvin Gaye footage. Overall it was a great perfromance by Thicke and his gang, who were clearly having fun as they left the stage rapping and dancing to Lil' Wayne's"a Milli"
Then came the main event, Alicia Keys. Now again,you don't have to tell me twice what a huge star Keys is...its clear just from the auidence she attracts. It wasn't just a black crowd, or younger crowd, or female crowd, or anything you'd picture...every aspect of America was in the audience, older, younger, black, white, men,women,Asian, Hispanic...I spent my night with an older white couple on on side of me, an older black and Hispanice couple in front, 4 drunken white ladies behind me, and 2 pre-teen girls,one white, one black, just bopping away next to me,definitely inspired by every word Keys said or put on the screen.
Keys; show started with a cage around the stage while trapped in a cage singing "Caged Bird"...clever, even clever was her escape. And while the show wasnt exactly fluid and had several bumpy and dis-jaunted moments, Keys did her best work with her voice and her piano. Shei s un-matched talent-wise when its just singing...no Tori Amos or Ben Folds antics, just an amazing voice and a piano, and its that the crowd came to appreciate most.
Keys put on a good performance, but again, she really didnt seem sure if she wanted to be Beyonce or Bono, when she should've just stuck to being Alicia. Keys may be one of music's top artists, but her stage show is clearly built to be a opener for concert professionals like Jay-Z (which ironically is how she ended the show, singing her version of the hit song she has with the rapper, having many in the crowd hoping for an appearance by Mr. Carter).
opened with "Caged Bird”
encore : “Empire State of Mind (Part II) ” Mike Kincaide