Monday, April 12, 2010

Alicia Keys Live In Oakland, CA Concert Review

As reported by Jim Harrington / Oakland Tribune

Alicia Keys first wanted us to know that she's a survivor.

The 29-year-old singer-songwriter-pianist opened her concert Saturday night (April 10) at the Oracle Arena with a recorded message. She spoke with passion to the packed house in Oakland about all the naysayers who once said she'd never make it in show business. The unspoken moral to the story, we were left to assume, is that good things happen to people who don't give up on themselves.

The underdog role was an odd choice for Keys. This lovely, multitalented musician had a record contract before she was 20. Were we really supposed to believe she faced the same odds on her road to success as this article does for a Pulitzer Prize? If anything, the opposite seems to be true — when she made her debut in 2001, with the eventual Grammy-winning "Songs in A Minor," Keys seemed destined for stardom.

Still, she continued to beat the drum of the downtrodden when she finally made her entrance in Oakland. The R&B/soul singer appeared in a cage, one she finally freed herself from by bending back a bar and slithering out the opening. The star then hustled through some "Thriller"-style moves, accompanied by three other dancers, while her nine-piece band pumped up "Love is Blind."

Sure, that opening segment tied directly into the trek's title, "The Freedom Tour," which takes its name from Keys' fourth platinum studio affair, last year's "The Element of Freedom." Yet it was also a garish, over-the-top start, one that concertgoers might expect to see from such drama queens as Britney Spears, Madonna and Sarah Brightman.

Now on her fourth concert tour, Keys still hasn't found a way to make big production numbers work for her.

Fortunately, just about everything else does.

Keys is at her best when she's not operating in a Beyonce-like swirl of dancers, video segments and flashing lights. Thanks to her substantial musical chops, she doesn't need any of that stuff. All she has to do is sit at the piano and sing from the heart.

She did that on several occasions during the show, but not enough.

Four songs into the set, Keys, who now sports a tightly curled hairdo, hit her first home run of the night as she moved to the keyboard and belted out the tear-jerker ballad "Fallin'." She didn't fare so well with the next number, "Another Way to Die," which found her matching modest jazz vocal scats with cliche-rich riffs by the lead guitarist.

That was followed by a stiff dance routine and some military-themed costumes, both of which appeared to have been borrowed from Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" world tour. Keys seemed horribly out of place in this commotion, but she found her spot when she sat down at the grand piano and coaxed out a precious solo version of "Pray for Forgiveness."

That's basically how it went all night. She faltered in her attempts to goose the up-tempo numbers with plenty of eye candy, only to succeed as few others can by conjuring up more intimate moments.

The one exception came during the encore, as Keys managed to mix the best of both worlds in a high-concept take on "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" that was rich with emotion and feeling.

Not to be a naysayer, but here's hoping Keys won't let that one bit of success guide her thinking when she's putting together her next tour.

Photo links:
Oakland Tribune
Wire Image

Alicia Keys 2010 Element of Freedom Tour Dates:

4/29 - Lisbon, Portugal - Pavilhao Atlantico
5/1 - Ischgl, Austria - Ski Resort
5/2 - Verona, Italy - Arena
5/4 - Marseille, France - Le Dome
5/7 - Berlin, Germany - O2 Arena
5/8 - Arnhem, Netherlands - Gelredome
5/9 - Frankfurt, Germany - Festhalle - Messe Frankfurt
5/12 - Hamburg, Germany - Color Line Arena
5/13 - Oberhausen, Germany - Konig - Pilsener Arena
5/15 - Merksem, Belgium - Sportpaleis Antwerpen
5/17 - Zurich, Switzerland - Hallenstadion Zurich
5/19 - Birmingham, UK - The NIA
5/21 - Dublin, Ireland - The O2 Dublin
5/23 - Glasgow, UK - S.E.C.C.
5/25 - London, UK - The O2 - London
5/26 - London, UK - The O2 - London
5/29 - Manchester, UK - Manchester Evening News Arena
5/31 - Paris, France - Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy
6/2 - Barcelona, Spain - Palau Sant Jordi
6/4 - Lyon, France - Halle Tony Garnier

(video courtesy of DeanOSupremo32)

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