Sade and John Legend perform again tonight at 7:30 at Philips Arena. Tickets are still available. For information, visit www.ticketmaster.com or the venue box office.
From the moment Sade rose from beneath the stage, clad completely in black and her hair slicked into a severe ponytail, it was apparent that style would pervade the night.
As she marched across the stage in stilettos, beaming behind her scarlet lipstick and singing “Soldier of Love” in her buttery smooth voice, Sade immediately captivated – and for two hours she never let the audience out of her seductive grip.
This is the first tour in a decade for the Nigerian-born-British-bred singer, and with nearly a month of North American shows behind her, Sade and the band that shares her name have perfected a show bathed in sensuousness.
She quickly addressed the sold-out crowd, saying, “We’ve been baptized today in the storm, and now we have you, the sunshine,” before easing into “Your Love is King.”
The song, like many in Sade’s six-album repertoire, is a romantic ballad built for slow-dancing. While there wasn’t much room for that in the packed Philips Arena, many couples swayed together appreciatively instead, their heads instinctively nodding to the gentle rhythms powering her songs.
Sade’s presence is quietly striking, and she makes every movement, even her arm waves, somehow look elegant. She also is embracing her inner performer on this tour, frequently dancing around the stage with idiosyncratic, yet fluid, movements and occasionally having a playful interaction with a member of her excellent band.
Whether taking a jazzy stroll through “Kiss of Life” or addressing fears of alienation during “In Another Time,” Sade, 52, forged an emotional connection with the audience not just through her lyrics, but the striking technological aspects of the show.
Though the stage was usually clean and empty, giving her three main bandmates – Stuart Matthewman on guitar and saxophone, Andrew Hale on keyboards and Paul S. Denman on bass – and five additional top-notch musicians plenty of open space, it also served as a cinematic platform of sorts.
An elaborate film noir introduced “Smooth Operator” – the song’s bassline as intoxicating as it was when first heard 27 years ago – and the gorgeous black and white photography displayed on the massive video screen behind the stage served as a perfect backdrop to the sparse “Jezebel.”
That song was one of many to highlight Matthewman’s searing sax, and while no one can upstage Sade, his impressive runs frequently commandeered the spotlight.
Several times during the show, a gauzy canopy lowered to shroud the stage, becoming another video screen. Though it was a novel approach when first used for “Bring Me Home,” with Sade and the band seen performing behind the sheer curtains, it was more of a distraction the second time around, for “Morning Bird.”
Still, it’s difficult to get too distracted by anything when Sade is singing, and on Tuesday, she sounded flawless whether romping through “Paradise,” which gave the show a punchy jolt, or sashaying flirtatiously in bare feet and a white gown, her loose hair hanging to her shoulders, for the gliding “The Sweetest Taboo.”
Throughout this tour, which wraps in September before heading back to Europe in November, Sade is booked for multiple nights in a handful of major cities (Atlanta included). In this currently squishy concert – and economical – environment, it’s a rarity when an artist sells out one arena show, never mind maintains a great enough audience appeal to do two.
But nothing about Sade has ever been typical.
Opening this North American leg of the tour is R&B prince John Legend, an appropriate pairing given Legend’s propensity for thoughtful musicianship.
He began a nearly one-hour set with his potent version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” sung mostly acapella with only his drummer striking the rim of his snare drum as background.
But that simplicity quickly burst into a full-fledged affair, as Legend, his seven-piece band and three backup singers dove into “Used to Love U.”
During the first few songs of his performance, Legend, looking debonair in a cream-colored suit, was overpowered by his drummer and three-piece brass section, his voice nearly impossible to discern. But he did quickly nullify the perception that he’s only a contemplative balladeer by displaying a hearty dose of showmanship in a set spanning the summery soulfulness of “P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care)” to a full-throttle “Green Light.”
When he first slid behind his grand piano for the sweetly melodic “This Time,” though, Legend’s voice rang clear through the arena – it was just a shame that the still-arriving crowd was too busy chattering to fully appreciate his efforts.