I love a good Clive Davis prodigy… and tonight I got to see one of his greatest, Ms. Alicia Keys. The Hell’s Kitchen native (where I live in now) descends on Madison Square Garden with her Freedom tour, celebrating her fourth studio album, The Element of Freedom.
Before the show begins, I’m suspicious of the big stage, the big lights, the big production. Where’s her piano? She opens with “Live is Blind,” off her new album, and then appeases the hometown crowd quickly with her 2001 breakthrough hit, “Fallin.'” Man, can Alicia Keys sing a song. When she performs her “old soul” songs like “Fallin’,” chills are sent through my body. But I’m still conflicted with the big production. I keep thinking, how amazing would it be to see her perform in Joe’s Pub or somewhere tiny, cozy and intimate with just her and a piano? Why is this trying to be a Beyonce show?
But then I settled down. It’s my girl, Alicia! And a sparkling bedazzled piano is finally rolled out onto the stage. She proceeds with one of my favorite songs off new new album, “Wait Til You See My Smile.” The falsetto “woooos” and the drums remind me of Carly Simon’s anthem “Let The River Run,” from Working Girl. Alicia Keys is at her best when she’s just emoting with her voice and her fingers on that piano. Then she belts out “If I Ain’t Got You.” More and more chills.
Huge highlight of the show was “Put It In A Love Song,” which is Alicia’s answer to Beyonce’s “Put a Ring On It.” In fact, it’s a duet on her new album, and I sort of love it. It’s a fun, peppy, upbeat pop song… she’s such an old soul that I forget Alicia is just a girl in her twenties. All of a sudden, who shows up? “Hey, yo B!” “What up, A?” MSG goes into a Sasha FIERCE FRENZY! Granted, Beyonce‘s appearance is less than two minutes long, but it felt like 30. “If you want me baby, work it out. If you love me baby, work it out!” They worked it out. Outstanding.
Rounding out the show, she sticks close to her piano for mega hits, “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart,” “Superwoman” and her 2008 anthem, “No One.” Every one of those songs was accompanied by 18,000 Alicia Keys backup singers. And yes, including me! Finally, she closes with the most anticipated song of the night, “Empire State of Mind,” particularly the stripped down, “broken down” version off Alicia’s CD. “I’ve got a pocket full of dreams, baby I’m from New York.” 18,000 fans get it here. Throw that on your iPod and walk around the streets of NYC. The city becomes your own private music video! Brilliant. But then the stripped down version is over and it’s… oh, hell… it’s Jay-Z! More frenzy. It’s pretty damn cool to have both B and J make appearances to support their friend, A. Only here. Let’s hear it for New York. Let’s hear it for Alicia Keys!