Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mini gig review: Alicia Keys

There's nothing like a record industry freebie to illustrate how certain performers feel a sense of entitlement and superiority over us peasants.

Last night, as Alicia Keys took to the stage in London, all the celebrities who'd been hanging back in the VIP section looking cool ran headlong for the stage in an undignified helter-skelter bargefest, all wearing the same "I deserve this, for I am better than you" expression. Imagine being pushed aside by Chipmunk. Chipmunk! The shame, the shame, the shame.

Anyway, this isn't all about me (he says, writing a blog and talking about himself in the third person). All the stars - from JLS to Dizzee Rascal to Will Young - wanted to be that little bit closer to Alicia, because she actually possesses that poise and authenticity they were busy trying to cultivate at the bar.

The only genuine soul star to emerge in the 2000s, she is self-aware enough to mock her supposed diva stature, arriving on stage with the announcement: "Hello London! Thank you for welcoming me to London! ...We are in London, right?". But she also knows enough about working the crowd to change the words of Empire State Of Mind (her version, not the Jay-Z one) to "Now we're in Londoooon!". Cue instant and humungous cheers.

I was surprised by her stage presence, though. Keys has always seemed somewhat inscrutable - distant, even - as a performer. But last night, she came alive, spinning around like a cowgirl during a reggaefied You Don't Know My Name, and leading a gutsy sing-along during the "woah-ah-oh-oh-ohhhh" coda to No-One.

Equally at home behind the piano, she trilled out the new single, Doesn't Mean Anything, and the evening's highlight, If I Ain't Got You - essentially a duet between Keys and a section in the middle of the audience who abandoned all sense of melody in favour of JUST SHOUTING THE WORDS VERY LOUDLY IN CASE SHE'D TEMPORARILY FORGOTTEN THEM.

Keys declared the whole evening to be "really fun" but barely stuck around for half an hour - perhaps because the claustrophbic, sweltering heat threatened to detune her piano. And she'd barely said her goodbyes before the "celebs" turned round and stampeded for the exit, arms flailing and manners once again forgotten (they'd been promised free food).

Then Alesha Dixon shared her ice cream with us, and restored our faith in humanity forever.

The End.

New York State Of Mind Pt II
Doesn't Mean Anything
Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart
If I Ain't Got You
You Don't Know My Name

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