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Live Review: Alicia Keys and John Legend – 11th December 2013 – Allphones Arena, Sydney, Australia

5 min read

Last night two heavyweights of the RnB and Soul world touched down in Sydney’s Allphones Arena to a frenzied, sold out crowd of thousands. Alicia Keys and John Legend are two of the most prominent RnB game players and have been riding the crest of a very successful wave for well over a decade with each claiming countless accolades between them including dozens of Grammy Awards and have for years been recognized as two of the most influential songwriters in music.

With both artists releasing acclaimed records this year; Alicia with Girl on Fire and John with Love In The Future, Australasia was treated to a double act whammy as the pair brought both records with them to a legion of followers Down Under and last night it was Sydney’s turn.

With John Legend opening the long night of entertainment within the bustling Olympic Park venue, we were treated to over a dozen pennings from the crooner, most from his current Love In The Future release. With a voice that is as smooth as they come, the ladies were melting from the front row right through to the distant corners of the venue.

Tracks like Caught Up, an inclusion within his latest studio effort, offered one of the sets notable performances as the singer swayed from one side of the stage to the other and encouraged the crowd to sing along with him in the tracks infectious chorus’ but the pressure wasn’t all laid on top of the new hits as early pennings including Number One and Ordinary People also found a welcome nesting place within the set.

Legend noted the warm welcome Australia has given the singer-songwriter upon arriving on Oz shores with the news of his latest single, All of Me, making its way to the top of the charts. The song provided the sweetest filling to the set as he offered heart and soul through the tracks gorgeously sung, piano-led delivery.

Though he is a star in his own right and could easily fill an arena on his own, John’s inclusion at the show as Alicia’s support was a nice touch to a solid evening of entertainment and the perfect warm up to the soul hit-maker.

Arriving on stage just shy of 9.30pm, Alicia appeared to a deafening applause and in front of images of New York showing on the large screens placed beside and behind the stage as the superstar leapt straight into her set with the Jay Z collaborative success, Empire State of Mind but the opening track was brief – the full version being saved for the closing of the show.

With a nod to her sophomore album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, we were offered several tracks from the 2003 album beginning with Karma and the incredible You Don’t Know My Name, the later serving the star as one of her many early hits and one that showed off Keys’ playful side as she playacted her way through a phone conversation with a crush, asking him out on a date in the tracks minute long interlude.

Though the tour is to promote Alicia’s latest Girl on Fire release, the songs that really shone last night were the singers hit singles; tracks that she was clearly the most comfortable performing. This was evident in her vocal delivery of numbers like Fallin’ and If I Ain’t Got You which shook the venues walls as she ripped through some of the most intense arrangements in soul music, especially with her exceptional performance of the former breakthrough track which was the clear highlight for all present at the show. Sung note for note, Fallin’ was musically outstanding and vocally electrifying as Alicia sat behind her white grand piano to deliver the masterpiece and the track responsible for making the singer a household name for over 12 years now. The live version also included a memorable guitar solo that gave the hit a lick of Southern twang.

Though it was the hits that shone the brightest at last night’s gig, the set list was dotted with some of the new records more prominent fixtures including the Brand New Me, one of the singers more recent radio hits and Tears Always Win which was placed in the opening section of the set and showcased her love of gospel music with the tracks gospel drenched chorus.

As well as showing off her own vocal abilities, the crowd was also treated to a performance from the leading ladies backup singers who performed an impressive version of the Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell hit, You’re All I Need To Get By.

Woman’s Worth was given an edgy makeover with the backing bands guitarist grinding his way through a meaty guitar solo while No One provided the first part of the set with one of Keys’ most successful pennings and a salute to her evident songsmith talents.

With an encore made up on Girl on Fire tracks New Day and the albums lead and title track, Alicia left the stage for a quick costume change and returned looking flawless in a long, glittery red dress to close the show with a full length performance of Empire State of Mind, capping the night off with one the most successful singles of the past decade.

Though the big hits from Alicia’s time at the top were the notables of the night with Fallin’, No One and If I Ain’t Got You being the highlights of those hits included in the set, the singers new pennings also found a welcome place within the nights entertainment, particularly with the songbirds powerful yet seemingly effortless performance of the new album’s title track.

Alicia also proved to be a performer clearly interested in her audience, smiling constantly as she told various anecdotes and stories behind the tracks within the set and offering brief slices of wisdom to the crowd who lapped up each and every word. I was also surprised at her movement around the stage. I had initially expected Keys performance to be situated predominantly behind a piano, her signature musical instrument, but half of the show was spent watching the singer dance around the stage with her backing dancers, though slightly less exuberantly of course as she still has some faultless vocals to deliver. All of this, combined with the impressive set of songs spanning the singers decade+ career, molded a pretty spectacular show for her large Australian fanbase.