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Concert Reviews:
Alicia Keys Plays It Classy At The Palace

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, June 7, 2008

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AUBURN HILLS -- Early in her concert at the Palace on Friday night (June 6), Alicia Keys complained to the crowd about managers and record company executives who "tried to get me to shake it more and take off more."

She's managed to do just fine in her career without succumbing to those demands -- to the tune of 25 million albums sold and 11 Grammy Awards won. And with her tidy, one-hour and 45-minute show, Keys proved that classy could still be just as captivating as more flesh-baring spectacles by chart neighbors such as Beyonce and Mariah.

Keys offered plenty of flash, mind you, with a two-level stage featuring a ramp that jutted into the audience, a moving and rotating piano, four outfit changes and three video screens, including a large, arced structure in the center of the stage that carried close-ups as well as prepared skits featuring Cedric the Entertainer. But Keys also had the tunes and the talent to carry a show without resorting to cheesecake tactics; the sophistication of her well-crafted blend of pop, R&B and jazz came through, even when she and her six dancers were, well, shaking it on uptempo romps such as "Ghetto Story," "Waiting For Your Love," "Heartburn" and "I Need You."

And when Keys sat at the piano for solo renditions of Prince's "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore," "Butterflies," "Goodbye" and "Send Me an Angel," she managed to convey an emotive intimacy within the arena setting.

Following opening sets by Ne-Yo and 2006 "American Idol" champ Jordin Sparks, Keys' show was structured as a musical autobiography, though the concept was loose and mostly provided opportunities for her to offer an assortment of affirmations about chasing dreams and staying true to yourself -- standard-issue stuff that she at least delivered with a convincing kind of passion. And they were easy to take as part of a faced-paced program in which Keys worked through all or (mostly) part of 27 songs, including medleys and some covers -- LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" ad Marvin Gaye's "Gotta Give It Up" -- that gave the spotlight to her three backing singers.

Though consistently solid throughout the night, Keys -- who was also smart enough to salute the Detroit Red Wings' Stanley Cup championship -- saved the best for last, with a closing segment that housed definitive performances of "Go Ahead," "A Woman's Worth," "Karma," "The Thing About Love" and particularly explosive renditions of her two biggest hits, "Fallin' " and "No One." She calls herself -- in song, at least -- a "Superwoman," but on Friday even kryptonite couldn't have put a crimp in Keys' show.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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