- Alicia Keys
- March 15, Mandalay Bay Events Center
The last time I saw Alicia Keys play Mandalay Bay Events Center, in April 2004, her set was sandwiched between performances by “Ladies First” tour mates Missy Elliott and Beyoncé. At her return Friday, she needed no such assistance filling the same venue near capacity or keeping fans entertained.
She did have an opener, rising R&B man Miguel, who played songs from last year’s superb Kaleidoscope Dream (including chart-topping single “Adorn”), demonstrated his vocal range and connected with a crowd he conceded might largely have been unfamiliar with his story. With a longer time slot and more elements in place—singers in lieu of pre-recorded backing vocals, for example—Miguel could be an arena force in his own right someday.
But for most, this night was all about Alicia. Onstage nearly two hours, the 32-year-old New Yorker further separated herself from most of today’s big-voiced pop stars with an impressive display of musicianship, charisma and artistic vision. Keys played a grand piano with passion—alone and at the foot of a seven-piece backing group—moved confidently alongside a skilled dance team and even play-acted a couple of her songs’ lyrical stories. And she did it all without pausing for a single main-set costume change, only ditching her black outfit for a sparkly dress before her “Empire State of Mind” encore.
That number, originally recorded with rapper Jay-Z in 2009, drew the loudest response, but Keys’ slew of solo hits, from 2001’s “Fallin’” to last year’s “Girl on Fire,” were sprinkled across a 23-song set that rarely dipped in energy. Many featured new touches—some of which worked (an extended piano intro to “No One”) and some of which didn’t (the James Bond theme woven into “A Woman’s Worth”)—and Keys’ warm, soulful voice missed its mark now and again. But the singer’s commitment to her music and its positive message was impressive and infectious.
After her show nine years ago, I noted that she had potential to be a Prince-caliber performer for a new generation. She’s not quite there, but few entertainers can even say they came close.
“You Don't Know My Name”
“Tears Always Win”
“Listen to Your Heart”
“Like You'll Never See Me Again”
“A Woman's Worth”
“Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)”
“Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart”
“You're All I Need to Get By”
“When It's All Over”
“Fire We Make”
“Not Even the King”
“If I Ain't Got You”
“Girl on Fire”
“Brand New Me”
“Empire State of Mind”