Alicia Keys Brought Her Fire to Enterprise Center

Her voice was resplendent all night

Jul 25, 2023 at 3:29 pm
click to enlarge Alicia Keys brought it to the Enterprise Center on Friday.
Steve Leftridge
Alicia Keys brought it to the Enterprise Center on Friday.

I suppose the go-to music critic's cliché would be to declare that when it came to the Alicia Keys concert at Enterprise on Friday that this girl is on fire. However, I’m holding off since Keys’ show was as defined by intimate gestures, songful recitations and intimate connections with the audience as by musical combustion, vocal infernos and stagecraft conflagrations.

Keys is still an arena-sized act despite the fact that the arena’s upper level was curtained off, and she made the most of the space available to her, playing in the round across a floor-length stage that included a central stage built around Keys’ piano and staircases that led to satellite stage on both ends. At the beginning of the show, Keys even worked her way through the aisles amid the crowd as she vocalized the hook to her debut hit “Fallin’,” finishing the song at the piano.

Keys was all about erasing the distance between the performer and the audience during a fast-paced 30-song set that often played like a giant medley, and if you were a Keys fan hoping to hear your favorite among her singles, you almost assuredly got it. First wearing a shiny metallic kerchief halter and technicolor pants with a full skirt overlay and matching ball cap with a hair scarf tied behind, Keys worked the full room — pointing, waving, making eye contact and dancing as she sang to the crowd, rarely sitting at the piano for a full song.

Piano-rich songs like “You Don’t Know My Name” were supplemented by her crack pit band, which allowed Keys to pop up with the handheld mic for the groove-based “Teenage Love Affair,” talking to the crowd over the intros, later strolling the walkway to sing “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” while a video of twin brothers doing interpretive water dancing hovered above her on giant video screens.

She performed “Underdog” on the move, carousing to Latin rhythms while guitarist Curt Chambers and background vocalist Norelle Simpson trailed her across the catwalks. “Holy War,” one of the show’s biggest ballads, was sung amid the steps as though hanging out on a brownstone stoop, Keys’ voice — resplendent all night — rising to peak power on the chorus.

After a brief instrumental interlude during which her dancer milked the crowd with freelance moves, Keys reemerged in a matching poof-sleeved groutfit with white sneakers and a ginormous bauble-y silver choker for a four-song solo mini-set at her most Keysian atop the stairs alone at an upright piano.

“How Come You Don’t Call Me” — nearly unrecognizable from the Prince original — was stellar, after which Keys set the record straight by saying, “I don’t care if you don’t call me because I don’t need no man.” You can imagine the yass-tronimcal reaction. She slipped in her patented life-coach moments here and there, introducing “A Woman’s Worth” with “Where are my ladies!? Because you deserve it all. That’s a fact.” “Superwoman” and “Not Even the King” followed before Keys transitioned back to the main stage, rapping the verses to “The Gospel” encased in stage fog as a light lasso descended over the piano.

Then it was down to superhits: “Girl on Fire” dipped and skyrocketed at the piano; “Empire State of Mind” was pure bliss as lights on the bottom of the video screens lit up an ecstatic crowd; a spot-on cover of Eurythmics synth-rock classic “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This”) bled seamlessly into Keys’ syncopated “In Common.” “No One” was an emotional high point, voices and cellphones up high.

Finally, Keys played a series of piano arpeggios that led into a soaring “If I Ain’t Got You” during which she led an a cappella refrain as smoke plumes shot roofward punctuated by Keys’ calls of “St. Louis!” It was a crescendo in a night filled with them courtesy of Keys’ generous spirit and almighty musicality. You know what? Screw it. This girl is on fire.

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