Looking at the ticket prices with the economy being what it is, one would think the John Legend, Sade concert would have a lot of empty seats, instead the Console Center was packed, and she gave them their money’s worth, every penny.
Superb is a term I very rarely use, especially pertaining to a concert. But the Legend, Sade concert would rank among the best I ever seen, and I’ve seen a many concerts in my day. Only Earth, Wind & Fire and Marvin Gaye at the Civic Arena could compare to it.
The first thing that stood out was the music and musicians. In today’s world of gimmicks and gadgets of non-musicians, it was oh so very rare and beautiful to listen to real musicians complimenting and supplementing the vocalists instead of drowning them out. First Legend, who actually had an excellent horn section, got the crowd going with a brilliant performance. It was rare to hear an artist that sounded better live than on CD. In most cases their real voices can’t stand the live test, but Legend has the pipes.
After Legend it was hard to imagine how Sade was going to top that. How can an artist who hasn’t recorded in years, or performed in years top one of the hottest vocalists in music today.
Sade made their return to U.S. shores in Baltimore with their first tour in more than a decade; the 120-minute set featured all of Sade’s best known songs, including their recent Grammy-winning hit, “Soldier of Love.” They opened the 54 date tour in Baltimore June 16 with Pittsburgh being their second stop, June 18 before they move on to Philadelphia, Chicago and just about every other major city in the U.S.
It wasn’t just Sade. It was Sade with some of the greatest sounding musicians I’ve ever heard. No wonder the press releases all refer to “them,” instead of her. The musicians didn’t just compliment her; it was like a well oiled team, like, let’s say the Steelers of the mid and late ’70s, or the Lakers during the Magic Johnson era. She was the star, the glue that held it all together but every single song was put together and performed as though it was going to be the only song performed that night and her only hit. Directed by longtime collaborator Sophie Muller, and with production and lighting design by Baz Halpin, the performance is groundbreaking from a visual perspective. With a 23’ x 52’ high resolution LED screen behind the band, and enormous projection screens all around the stage, beautiful, larger than life images accompany the music which has made Sade one of the most adored and enduring live bands in the world. The result is a visually stunning setting in which to hear one of the world’s greatest bands on tour for the first time since 2001. It was like watching Magic throw a sweet pass to James Worthy or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the dunk or sweet jumper, or Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann, or Franco Harris through the middle or the Steel Curtain stopping the Oakland Raiders, as her strong, powerful yet soothing voice gave way to the musicians, be it the guitarist, bassist, drummer or keyboardist. But as great as all these musicians were, the saxophonist is something very special, as all Sade fans know. It’s hard to even imagine Sade without this very unique sound. And he was at his very, very best.
The overall production through the background videos, and the musicians were perfect extensions of Sade’s beautiful and powerful voice.
Listening to her records really doesn’t prepare you for just how strong a voice this sister has. Her live performance is actually better than her records, which is saying a lot because she is a true diva, who hopefully will be around for a long time to come.
Known for their one of a kind timeless sound, Sade has enjoyed phenomenal success both internationally and stateside throughout the span of their 27 year career. Since the release of their debut album, “Diamond Life” in 1984 the band has seen all five of their studio albums land in the Top 10 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Chart selling a total of more than 55 million albums worldwide to date. They’ve been nominated for American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and have won four Grammy Awards—first in 1986 for Best New Artist, then in 1994 for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group for “No Ordinary Love,” again in 2002 for Best Pop Vocal Album with “Lovers Rock” and most recently in 2011 for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group for “Soldier Of Love.” The band also recently released “The Ultimate Collection,” a 28 track, 2-CD set of their best known songs.