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Concert Reviews:
Sade returns with taste, class at the Palace

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2011

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AUBURN HILLS -- Sade really needs to come around more than once ever 10 years or so.

On its first tour since 2001, the British band -- fronted by its namesake Nigerian-born singer -- rolled into town Wednesday night (Aug. 3) at the Palace with a two-hour show that showed taste and class need not be staid, and that in defiant contrast to the pop princesses who have already played this summer, spectacular does not have to rely on spectacle.

In other words, the grown-ups can blow you away, too.

That's exactly what Helen Folasade Adu and company did at the Palace, deftly delivering 22 songs from a six-album catalog of blended pop-soul-jazz. The vibe in the room was chill -- but organically so, with Sade herself putting a warm and human face to an image that's somewhat icy and aloof off the stage. She ingratiated herself to the Detroit audience early in the show, too, asking "Where would I be without Motown?...Without Detroit we are nothing." You could almost hear hearts melting throughout the arena.

Sade hardly needed to kiss up to her Palace fans, however; the singer -- who, along with her band, changed outfits four times during the show -- was well equipped to win everyone over with a set whose nuanced arrangements were expertly captured by her three bandmates and five additional touring musicians, including drummer Pete Lewison, who celebrated his birthday on Tuesday (Dec. 2). In concert, the songs came out with a little extra bite and edge, particularly upbeat fare such as "The Sweetest Taboo," "Love Is Found," "Smooth Operator," the Motown-flavored "Your Love is King," "Paradise," "Is It a Crime?" and the punchy, martial-rhythmed show- opener "Soldier of Love."

And more austere numbers such as "Jezebel" -- which Sade sang sitting on the edge of the stage -- "Morning Bird," "King of Sorrow" and "The Moon and the Sky" allowed plenty of room for show-stopping vocalics and subtle instrumental flourishes.

Sade did not shirk on the visual end, either, though you'd never mistake Wednesday's show for a Katy Perry or Britney Spears extravaganza. Taste again ruled as the group used hydraulic platforms, curtains and lighting effects, as well as a large video screen behind the stage, to provide different looks and configurations throughout the night -- some intimate, some bombastic (or as close as Sade comes to that). A sheer white curtain ringed the stage during "Bring Me Home," "Morning Bird and the encore, "Cherish the Day," for a striking, dimensional effect, while an interactive, old school urban "crime drama" preceded "Smooth Operator." She sang "Pearls" in front of a dazzling sunrise on the video screen, while confetti petals gently fell from the top of the rigging during "By Your Side."

It was a show well worth waiting 10 years for -- but here's hoping it won't take that long to get the group back this way.

John Legend, meanwhile, provided a more than adequate warm up for Sade with a generous, 15-song, hour-long performance that kicked off with a cover of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and moved through his own favorites such as "This Time," "Let's Get Lifted," "Slow Dance," "P.D.A. (We Just Don't Care)," "Ordinary People," "Everybody Knows" and "So High," wrapping up with a spirited "Green Light." The Ohio-born R&B singer, clad in white, also paid tribute to Motown, and when he asked the crowd if it was "ready for some soul music?" the high-volume answer set a tone for the rest of the evening.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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