Sade – June 30, 2011 @ Bell Centre

After an 18 year absence Sade made a triumphant and confident return to Montreal.  During the 1980s there were few bigger acts than R&B group Sade.  The band released hit single after hit single.  Gained fans from all different walks of life and musical preferences.

The Soldier of Love tour made a stop in Montreal after making a successful run through Europe.  Sade and her 8 piece band did not disappoint.  Early in the show lead vocalist Helen Folsade (meaning he who wears a crown) Adu told the crowd that the band realized that it had been a long time and they would do everything they could to make it up to their fans in Montreal.  Well, 18 years is a long time, but the band did make good on its promise.

An evening filled with a minimalist approach to sultry soul music was what all in attendance were treated to.  Still looking incredibly youthful at 52, Sade’s voice has held up remarkably over the years still sexy, low, smooth, and powerful.  Distinctive in its huskiness, her voice has always set her apart from other pretenders to her soul throne.  She showed that upper range is no problem for her as she hit it with ease on songs like “Pearl”.  Tingles went up my spine.  Perfect pitch and beguiling phrasing.  Sophisticated and to the point.  Subtle and intimate. Not a note extra or a hint at any type of excess.  A night of “pure” music.

Making her entrance on the wide open stage that offered good sightlines no matter where you were sitting, Nigerian born, England raised Sade took the stage by climbing stairs that appeared in the middle of its vast black expanse.  Lights down and simply backlit by a strong white light, it was as dramatic as you got on this evening.  Not a complaint, not in the least.

From the first marching notes of “Soldier of Love” the crowd was enraptured.  The two huge video screens to either side of the stage and the even larger one in the back were used to convey images of the band or that went along with the song being sung. Wearing a simple black outfit with killer black heels, her usual severely pulled back ponytail, bright red lipstick, and huge gold hoops in her ears, it was as if time had stood still and 18 years had not passed.

Many instances during the evening you were transported.  To another time and another place.  The time was back in the days of the film Casablanca with its dimly lit jazz clubs.  Sade played the part of the beguiling and exotic looking singer that made patrons come to the club.  It was a different time.  A time where singers used their voices not technology or pyrotechnics to entertain.  She is able to make things incredibly intimate.  Even though we were thousands of people in the cavernous Bell Centre you felt you were in a small club and they were playing for you and you alone.  The music itself is timeless.  It cannot be dated and maybe that is why it offers the listener an escape.

Despite the minimalism, the evening was dripping with emotion.  The voice is able to convey the melancholy of love gone wrong in a way few others can even dream of.  With the emotion and talent Sade succeeds in drawing the listener in.

The notoriously private and shy singer looked genuinely happy to be there with a wide smile on her face most of the evening.  And really seemed to appreciate the crowd’s obvious affection for the music and performance.  Excitement and joy prevailed.  No signs of rust despite having not toured at all for a decade.

Sometimes with a front woman of such talent it is easy to forget that Sade is a band.  The talented and tight band supported her voice with laid back soul at its best.  Amazingly throughout most of the show the band, with its bare bones, showed off each member’s astounding talents.  Slick solos were performed by each member.  Again no excess.  But certainly no underselling of the music either.

There were several outfit changes (white open collared shirt paired with tailored man’s pants and vest, tight and long white dress with a red bra peeping out from underneath, and a long red dress for the encore number) by Sade and the band (nattily dressed mostly in black) and a brilliantly used three-sided scrim that images were projected onto, but the star of the evening was the 5’7” striking woman, her band and the songs.

Usually on arena tours you do not get an opening act of the calibre of John Legend.  He is a Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter/pianist, who normally headlines his own tours.

Legend spared no expense other than one important one (which I’ll talk about later) due to the fact that he was an opening act.  Traveling with a 10-piece band that included a horn section and 3 female backup singers, Legend is a showman.  Whether sitting at the piano or moving with confidence back and forth across the front of the stage, he exudes a charisma that other performers can only dream of.

The only problem with his set was the sound.  In the lower ranges of his voice it was very muddled.  I could not hear a word he was singing.  It was like he was under water.  When he hit the higher notes it was fine, but by that point I was already pissed off.  His band was also turned up way too loud and drowned out his smooth voice on many an occasion.

Almost one hour later he had the entire crowd up on their feet warmly applauding the guy there just to “warm” them up.  Legend set the stage well for what was to come.  Great double bill.

All that can be said at the end of a night of high-calibre music like this is: Please don’t wait 18 more years before you return to Montreal, Sade!

Set Lists:

John Legend:

1)  Rolling in the Deep (Adele cover)
2)  Let’s Get Lifted
3)  Slow Dance
4)  PDA
5)  Green Light
6)  Ordinary People
7)  This Time
8)  Stay With You

Sade:

1)  Soldier of Love
2)  Your Love is King
3)  Skin
4)  Kiss of Life
5)  Love is Found
6)  In Another Time
7)  Smooth Operator
8)  Jezebel
9)  Bring Me Home
10)  Is It a Crime?
11)  Still in Love With You
12)  All About Our Love
13)  Paradise
14)  Nothing Can Come Between Us (sung by back up singers)
15)  Morning Bird
16)  King of Sorrow
17)  The Sweetest Taboo
18)  The Moon and the Sky
19)  Pearls
20)  No Ordinary Love
21)  By Your Side
Encore:
22)  Cherish the Day

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