Alicia Keys – The Freedom Tour
Saturday, 3rd July 2010
Forget the shock tactics of Lady Gaga, the formidable force that is Alicia Keys reigned supreme in effortless fashion to a sold out O2 Arena. With her flawless vocals and accomplished piano playing, Keys brought music back down to earth and reminded us that old school musicianship is hard to come by these days.
Before the singer emerged with a compelling performance of ‘Caged Bird’, we were treated to a combination of pre-performance Pop classics including a remix of the late Michael Jackson’s ‘They Don’t Care About Us’, setting the politically charged tone of the concert. Like the King of Pop, Keys’ peace-promoting concert was not just one of musical magnificence but charitable awareness. As she sung her soul out with refreshing renditions of fan favourites such as ‘Fallin’ and ‘You Don’t Know My Name’, the audience was left gazing up at a career-spanning set with pop-art images of Gandhi, John Lennon and JFK. As reoccurring captions of love, change and hope illuminated the stage, Keys gave warm words of encouragement to never give up on your dreams. Appearing more modest than a fame-seeking millionaire, she urged her fans to be inspired and support her charity, Keep a Child Alive, in helping to heal the world.
While the singer made her only costume change of the evening, her exceptionally talented backing singer took the stage and entertained the audience with a powerhouse performance of Nina Simone’s ‘Feelin Good’. Alternating between the beautiful ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ and the edgier ‘Another Way to Die’, Keys showed us just how understated her unique brand of R&B is. While she could have easily taken more than two tracks from her best-selling debut album, Songs in A Minor, Keys gave us a rare glimpse of genuine artistry that is often overshadowed by superficial stardom. As an artist who has stayed clear of the mass-media, Keys has maintained a mystique, making her music the main point of interest and not her personal life.
Left out of the concert, however, was the yet to be released ‘Put It In A Love Song’, a contagious collaboration with Beyonce that is one of the many songs selected from her latest album, The Element of Freedom.
‘Diary’ was one of the most outstanding numbers of the night, keeping the audience awe-struck with an ensemble of vocals and masterful musicianship. Summoning several keyboards, including a guitar-style one shaped like a key, the artist jammed with her band to a chanting crowd. While dancing is clearly not her forte, Keys gave us what we expected from a music superstar: substance.
Saving the best for last, Keys’ electrifying performance of the hugely successful ‘Empire State of Mind Part II’ was complemented by re-emerging images of her native New York, though the lyrics were conveniently changed to “London” at the crowd’s approval. After the cheering and clapping had hit a climax, Keys said her farewells and left her fans feeling both entertained and educated, something not many artists can take credit for.