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R. Kelly strips down in Atlanta for a screaming audience

R. Kelly had no prob on his "Ladies Make Some Noise" mission Thursday at the Fox. (Photos by Q. McElroy)

R. Kelly had no prob on his "Ladies Make Some Noise" mission Thursday at the Fox. (Photos by Q. McElroy)

The testimony: I was wary of seeing R. Kelly’s “Ladies Make Some Noise” tour Thursday night (See Photo Gallery) because I just wasn’t sure how I’d feel about seeing him in freak-mode after he was cleared of child porn charges this year. About midway through the 2-hour show he started to testify. He said he was told not to talk about “the case” but he felt need to because this is first tour since his trial and, well, he has been through his own personal hell. This was the perfect segue into his performance of “I Believe I Can Fly,” which turned the Fox Theatre into an impromptu revival meeting.

Exhibit A: The Fox seemed like a strange venue for the notoriously elaborate performer, but it was the perfect backdrop for Kelly’s minimalist staging. The small band, three backup singers and few dancers helped create one big sexy club vibe. Set changes were little more than some stage props, rug swaps and a few outfit changes. Ultimately he was able to showcase his incredibly strong singing prowess and flirtatious personality. (At one point, we saw a pink G-string fly on the stage, but after Kellz took a moment to pretend to remove his undies and throw them in the audience, I’m pretty confident it was an act – though next time he needs something sexier than tighty-whities.

R. Kelly was clean-cut, sultry and humorous.

Kellz was clean-cut, sultry and humorous.

Exhibit B: As soon as he hit the stage in jeans, a T-shirt, winter white blazer and red scarf, his magnetism was unnerving. It goes without saying that only fans would pay to see him perform. But gone were the cornrows and sagging jeans. Whether in a tuxedo with red bow-tie (during his homage to Sam Cooke) or vest and hoodie (during a ski lodge scene), we saw a clean-cut, charming man with understated swag and a playful sense of humor.

Exhibit C: “I can make a song out of anything!” Kellz said at one point. We know. And he didn’t need exaggerated gyrations to do it. In order to get through his prolific song-writing history, he rarely sang a full song but that was not an issue. He started strong with a melody of high-energy club hits. He took us from hits like “I’m a Flirt,” “Baby” and “Fiesta” to more recent tracks like “Rock Star” and “Number One” (Top 10 duet with Atlanta singer Keri Hilson). But the strongest response – the audience was fluent enough to sing the songs themselves – came when he took us back to when “Down Low” just meant a forbidden affair and Ron Isley aka Mr. Biggs wasn’t in jail. Think “Contagious,” “It Seems Like You’re Ready,” “My Body’s Callin’” … you get the picture.

Exhibit D: Unfortunately, this leads us to the lowlight. During his sexy rendition of “12 Play” some classless members of the crowd got into an altercation in the orchestra seats. We saw a cup do an aerial at another person and R. Kelly stopped the show. When security didn’t respond properly, Kelly reminded them we had a show to do and they are supposed to kick such characters out of the building. Unfortunately, said classless members were enraged by this idea and fought security vigorously up the aisle as they were escorted out.

Rebuttal: Once we got back on track, he was gracious enough to finish the song. Then he took us to the highlight – a video tribute to Michael Jackson, who worked with R. Kelly on studio projects. It included personal video clips of MJ in the backseat of a car. He was listening to Kelly’s “Ignition Remix” and let’s just say it seemed more like MJ was in a club than a car.

R. Kelly makes it rain Oct. 22 at Atlanta's Fox.

As a finale, he makes it rain on some "Happy People".

Closing argument: After a moving tribute to Sam Cooke, R. Kelly closed it down with his immensely popular “2 step” dance hits including “Step in the Name of Love” and “Happy People.” Punctuated by a red confetti shower, everybody took it side-to-side, back to front and even tried to spin it around with or without a partner.

The verdict: R. Kelly is one of the most powerful vocalists – and entertainers – in R&B. Case closed.

Catch him at the Fox Theatre Friday at 8p. Tickets still available ($47-$77).

14 comments Add your comment

Lisa C.

October 23rd, 2009
10:16 am

Once again, R. Kelly did what he does best, perform! I think he looks more mature and much sexier with the low cut. I had great time and enjoyed and every moment. Other than the alley chicks who thought it was ok to interrupt the concert with that foolishness! Keep doing your thing Kellz!!

Me

October 23rd, 2009
11:10 am

Did he have an opening act?

Q McElroy

October 23rd, 2009
11:35 am

I can’t personally confirm, but I was told that Pleasure P and Chrisette Michele were scheduled to open.

Monique C

October 23rd, 2009
11:51 am

Great summary of the concert! I thought the show was great. Did anyone notice the protestors outside of the venue?? I came in on the tail-end of Pleasure P, but I’m not sure if anyone performed before him.

Peachy-Perfect

October 23rd, 2009
4:02 pm

I thought the concert was great. Pleasure P and some new artist opened up (I can’t remember her name), she was ok. RKelly is definitely a wonderful performer and he looked GOOD last night. I did see the handful of protesters outside but quickly ignored them like everyone else.
I wish the show was a little longer, can’t get enough of KELLS :>)

BOCP

October 24th, 2009
9:38 am

Awesome concert! I was proud of R Kelly’s maturity level and stamina. He sang his songs and reminded us why he will always be a number one artist and song writer. He was humble and professed that he, too; has been through drama and has to lean on GOD to bring him out. Big ups to Kells, keep up the good work. -Batrina

Renee

October 24th, 2009
10:54 am

The concert was great on Friday night, Kellz put it down in the ATL, you definitely can see a change in Kellz, very mature, yet sexy and still freaky. I loved every minute of it.

GinaDK

October 24th, 2009
2:38 pm

Sounds like a blast. You know he always puts on a great show. I heard about some fight during the concert. It’s a shame, but Kells handled it right. Can’t wait to see him later on this tour.

Courtney

October 25th, 2009
9:48 pm

I went to the show on Friday night and it was AWESOME!!! I have seen him twice before and he is always on his job as a performer!!! People should be protesting our school systems instead of the “R”!!! LOL!!!

Ron

October 27th, 2009
7:31 am

R Kelly strips down? What, did he see some little girls in the crowd?

Hump-Diddy Deeballz

October 27th, 2009
9:31 am

Did R Kelly pee on any of the little girls in attendance.

Lay-Z

October 27th, 2009
9:33 am

Dun be hay-in on Kelly. he duh man but I wuna be whoopin on him azz foe pp on litle girlz…PEACE!

La Shun Saul

October 31st, 2009
8:17 pm

Kelly was aquitted of those charges. LET IT GO ( to the people with the off-colored comments). I live in Dallas and saw him on Thursday. He was fabulous. My only regret is that is was not long enough, hence he did not perform a whole song once. WE LOVE YOU KELLZ!!!

robin

November 3rd, 2009
9:48 pm

all of you who had nasty things to say about kelly . you know where to go to hell. he don’t need you at all he is doing good on his own.so stop hating on the man.keep your comment to yourself are deal with me.