Saturday, March 27, 2010

Concert Review: Alicia Keys Prudential Center

When I think of going to concerts and what ultimately makes a concert worth attending, spending money on tickets, traveling to etc., the most attractive lure for an artist is their ability to be a musician. When I say musician, I mean you have an undeniable talent when playing that instrument, so much so that people are willing to watch you play it. Now most artists not only play an instrument, they also sing, but we've all been to concerts where you go for the vocals and the instrumentation is more of an auxiliary element of the performance.

I say all this to preface why I was so excited to see Alicia perform live. I had seen her a few times perform on TV (award shows, all star games, Oprah) and she consistently brings a unique combination of talent and charisma to her performances. I can appreciate her joy for performing because seeing her smile on stage puts on full display how much she really enjoys sharing her music with people. It also helps she has an amazing voice and an incredible talent for playing the piano, but all that wouldn't be as impressive if she didn't pour so much emotion into her music and performances.

Now I had never been to a concert in Jersey before or visited Newark, NJ, so this was all going to be a new experience for me and while I wouldn't exactly describe Newark as clean and vibrant city, the Prudential Center (where the NJ Devils and NJ Nets play) is a great new venue and one that I would definitely go back to visit for another show. Despite the difficulty to initially find parking, I also would recommend a restaurant a couple blocks away from the Prudential Center called Fornos Spanish Cuisine. I really enjoyed their red Sangria and they definitely serve you a LOT of food when you go there, so be prepared to eat a ton.

Fast forward to the concert, it was a little before 10 PM and Robin Thicke was just finishing up his set. Coincidentally, he was singing my favorite song of his titled Sex Therapy, which he absolutely killed on stage and had all the ladies screamin' for. Doesn't get much sexier than that track and when I heard it coming on as I walked in, finding my seats became secondary, I sprinted to the nearest entrance and watched from an aisle. That was the one song I wanted to hear from him, so I was pleasantly surprised with the timing of it all. To finish his set I was pleasantly surprised to her him sing over Lil Wayne's A Milli beat...definitely left a good taste in my mouth heading into Alicia's performance.
Soon after the set was over, I found my seats and despite feeling like I was far away from the stage, it was directly ahead of me, which made for a pretty good view of the stage. It wasn't more than a half an hour when Alicia started her set with an inspiring introduction that went like this:

"I'm a renegade, I'm a truth seeker,
They told me I would never make it and I did
They told me I wasn't strong, but I am mighty,
The element of Freedom is tattooed on my heart it manifests and reads
Hope is real love in unconditional, passion and purpose is what it's about,
My name is Alicia Keys and I Am The Element of Freedom"

The inspirational beginning faded into her track Caged Bird. I wasn't as big of a fan of that track...until I heard her sing it live. That turned into the main theme of the night as I gained a bigger appreciation for some of her lesser known tracks like Wait Til You See My Smile and Unthinkable (I'm Ready). Honestly the tracks she performed with her band ended up being fairly average and didn't fully showcase her abilities in my opinion. The faster paced songs like Go Ahead and I Need You weren't as exciting to hear in concert for me because I'm such a big fan of her songs that she flys solo and does her thing on the piano...

 ...which is why when they wheeled on stage the baby grand piano, I knew I was going to like the next song being played. The onslaught of my favorite Alicia tracks started with her rendition of Diary where she got a little vocal assistance onstage at the end of the track when the Tony Toni Tone vocals come in. Check it...

There's something soo soothing about that song, it truly is one of my favorite mellow R&B tracks of all time. Seeing it live did not disappoint either because Ms. Keys sung the hell out of it.

The next track, my favorite of the concert by far, was her performance of Sleeping With a Broken Heart. Before giving my two pennies, press play below...

Standing ovation worthy is the best way to describe the way she performed that song. From the exaggerated slowed down beginning where she sucked me in at "And all the time you were telling me lies" with that vocal crescendo over the dreamy synthesizers. It gave me goosebumps to hear my current favorite song of hers be played so methodically, taking her time to first set up the track in such an out of body uplifting way and then finishing the track by bringing in the beat to top it off. I would have paid the whole price of admission just to see her perform Sleeping With a Broken Heart the way she did, truly amazing. I still can't stop watching the video above of her performing the track...mostly because it's such a great performance...but also due to the lyrical significance the track personally brings...#solodolo

Before the encore I was hoping and praying to hear my other favorite off her last album, That's How Strong My Love Is along with Empire State of Mind, which she had yet to play. Unfortunately, it was a one song encore, but I'll give her credit, as usual she really put all she had into the track vocally. Check it out below...

Overall I'd give the concert a B+. It was better than the John Mayer concert I went to, but if I had the opportunity to see her play a whole set by herself on the piano, I would pay twice the price of admission because THAT would be a perfect concert front to back. A smaller venue would have been better too, but that wasn't a big deal in my opinion. Robin Thicke was good for the limited time I saw him, but other than the songs I heard I don't think I would have liked it any more by catching more of his set. The main act is also worth coming to see regardless of the opening act because Alicia is a deeply spiritual person who really makes an effort to exude positivity every chance she gets while performing, which makes it a positive experience for any ages. I'd definitely recommend seeing Alicia in concert if you have the chance because what you see on TV is no joke. There are no smoke and mirrors that make her seem better, she's the real deal and one of the most talented artist/musicians out right now.


eXTReMe Tracker