March 17, 2013 – Verizon Wireless Theater (Grand Prairie, TX)
– Words by David Huff / Photos by Chris Eason –
I’ll say one thing for Alicia Keys. She certainly loves her hat. She also loves big expansive stage productions that include the prerequisite dancers, a high powered band as well as back-up singers.
That said this concert would have been ideal show had she just kept the hat and jettisoned everything else.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved spending St. Pat’s Day with Alicia. It was, however, a bit disheartening to witness her transformation into an entertainer at the expense of the wonderful solo artist that burst on the scene in 2001 with the brilliant debut, Songs in A Minor. Now married with child, Keys’ makeover is a bit unsettling at first, but there are moments in her two-hour set where her past rears its wonderful head to remind an audience just how talented this artist truly is. And when that occurs, the change is quite dramatic, and welcomed.
There will be some who gripe this artist has sold out by allowing herself to be used by corporate America. That argument is made by the ignorant who don’t understand the current state of affairs that all musicians now contend with. We live in a time where everybody is trying to get the consumers attention. If you’re not available to everybody, you’re destined for obscurity. Keys’ move to garner attention for her new album, Girl on Fire, by forming a partnership with Citi bank was a brilliant move. Not only was a snippet of the album’s title track heard by countless millions by the ad campaign, it didn’t cost Alicia anything but time. When the most important element today for advertising your album is access, if your music isn’t made available to everybody at a reasonable price, your time in the spotlight is going to be limited.
There was a lot of thought and care put in to the creation of this show. Keys entered the stage in a sphere of cascading blue light. Dressed impeccably in black tuxedo pants and matching top, adorned with the aforementioned stylish wide-brimmed hat, Keys was accompanied by four dancers, three background singers and a band cleverly hidden off stage. The only instrument visible this evening was the one that got it all started with ‘songs in A minor’, her piano.
Taking risks and creating something new that resonates with her audience at large has been something of a trademark for Keys. Whether she is collaborating with Jay-Z and Kanye West on song projects, or just sitting behind the piano to let her fingers do the rapping, there’s a sense calm and beauty to everything this artist does. Over the years, her transformation from a soulful piano playing balladeer into a flashy, energetic pop star has been interesting to say the least.
Alicia Keys will never be a Beyonce, or Pink, or Rihanna. She doesn’t need to be. The New York City native has more talent in her little pinky than all three of those performers put together. Though she went a bit overboard on the pomp and circumstance, nevertheless this spirited, multi-talented performer had the crowd in her corner during this two-hour extravaganza.
This girl was definitely on fire.