In a world with evil, lip-synching, pseudo-musician villains, Alicia Keys is a true heroine.
The inspiring songstress and pianist extraordinaire brought her Freedom Tour to Florida this past weekend for two performances. She is touring in support of her fourth studio album, “The Element of Freedom,” released in December. The album has been noted as a departure from her typical, strong ’70s R&B and soul feel with some songs having more of a pop influence.
On Sunday evening at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Keys, along with opening acts Melanie Fiona and Robin Thicke, prevailed with captivating performances.
It took me a while to count how many musicians were on stage with Keys (nine). I kept getting distracted by each of their talent. For the song “Diary” from her second album, Keys and her three backup singers tore it up.
While her singing was note perfect all night, you could still feel the rawness of each moment; a reminder that she was right there, belting out those sounds. Every stage movement flowed, whether she was planted at the piano or prowling the stage with her three dancers.
And how insanely rhythmic is she? During the song “Un-thinkable (I’m Ready)” Keys stood in spotlights near the front of the stage holding her microphone in one hand and grasping the top of her mike stand in the other. She closed her eyes and tipped the stand away from her. It teetered a moment before it fell over. That stand hit the stage floor on the first beat of the next measure of the song. Coincidence? I’m not so sure.
After a soulful version of “Superwoman,” Keys described how she struggles to find the right words to express her gratitude to her fans. “The best way I can say thank you is like this ... .” After a moment of her piano intro of “If I Ain’t Got You” the audience erupted in delight.
Everyone was on their feet for the set-ending “No One.” Keys slowly descended under the stage on a hydraulic platform. As she disappeared, her band continued on, igniting a jubilant sing-along while the video screens displayed audience shots from around the arena.
When the stage went dark, I saw no one scurrying off to get a jump on traffic. Keys returned moments later for her encore, ”Empire State of Mind,” which included some lyrics tailored to Tampa.
A Naples couple I bumped into agreed. Maryann Kriger described the concert as “Unbelievable! She was outstanding. An amazing experience.”
Kriger’s husband, Greg Casey, chimed in that their wedding song was “If I Ain’t Got You.”
Keys’ set clocked in at around 1 hour, 36 minutes. I usually wince when a headliner performs for under 2 hours. But not this time. Her work was done.
Bradshaw is a Bonita Springs-based concert photographer who loves to shoot the show. He’s covered local bands in tiny smoke-filled bars, U2 in a sold-out stadium and everything in between.