NEW YORK — Who says it’s lonely at the top?
P. Diddy, Jermaine Dupri, Joe, Glenn Lewis, Crazy Legs, Loon and a few thousand fans came out Monday night to club Exit to support the woman with the #1 album in the country, Alicia Keys.(Click here for photos from the show.)
Before A. Keys emerged onstage, a small undercurrent of boos rang out. The jeers, however, were not for Alicia; the crowd was growing weary of her hypeman, Freak. He would begin to announce the night’s headliner, then stop. Finally he stopped pretending and Keys, clad in a blue leather jacket and blue jeans, stepped out.
She sat down at the keys and briefly warmed up with classical music before she said one word to the crowd. Then she got up and took the mic. “Let’s gooooo!” she yelled and asked everyone in attendance for a soul clap as the band played on.
“If you’re feeling all right, let me hear you say ’yeah,’ ” she said. The band started playing the instrumental to Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” and Keys and her hypeman began jumping up and down and pumping their fists.
“You gotta move that thang, you’ve got to shake that thang,” she kept singing before letting her brash NYC mentality roll over to the performance of her mixtape heater “Streets of New York.” She sat and played at the piano to start out, but while the cut progressed, she stood up and reminded everyone she was no prim and proper platinum diva. Alicia showed she’s still ’hood, opening up her b-girl side and bopping like an MC, mic in one hand and her other in the air as she literally sang the praises of her hometown. Keys’ band flipped the outro of the record, breaking into the Stevie Wonder classic “Living for the City.”
“We’re survivors,” she told the crowd of fellow New Yorkers. “Thank y’all for making my album #1 two weeks in a row. Thank you for coming out to celebrate.”
Alicia then sat back down at the keys and began to express her passion for playing. She stroked a brief intro, then commenced “Diary.” “Laaayyy your, head on my pillow/ And you can be yourself …/ No one but me and you-ooh.” The audience joined in on the chorus. “I won’t tell your secrets/ Your secrets are safe with meee-eee …/ Just think of me as the pages in your diary.”
Keys stayed at the piano for her millionth — but fiery, nonetheless — performance of “Fallin’.” Her manager, Jeff Robinson, then surprised her by presenting his superstar find with a double-platinum plaque for The Diary of Alicia Keys.
“I had no idea, this is heavy,” the singer said holding her plaque. “This is unbelievable. Thank you for coming out here and rocking with me. I owe it to you.”
It was then time to get grown and sexy.
“Just sway with me,” she told everyone while snapping her fingers and moving side to side like one of the Temptations. Her male backup singers harmonized underneath her words to enhance the mood, “ooh, ooh, ooh, ba-ba.”
“I know it’s kinda crowded, you feel a little smushed,” she continued. “But feel the music. Let it take over you.”
Later it was Alicia singing “ooohoooh” as she segued into “You Don’t Know My Name.” “You don’t even know what you doing to me,” she said, then clapped her hands to match the beating of the drums.
“Will you ever know it,” she started to sing again, with one hand on the mic stand. “You see, I’mma have to call this boy,” she explained, pulling out an actual cell phone and revealing it to the audience, which cheered with approval.
“Hello, can I speak to Michael?” she continued, acting out the skit toward the end of the song. Keys laid out her acting skills, fluttering her eyelashes like a schoolgirl as if she were kicking it to someone on the other end of the line. When the part of the skit came where her reception gets interfered with, she even leaned her head all the way to left and asked, “Can you hear me now?”
“Will you ever know it?” she crooned one last time before the song ended. Keys did tell everyone that they will hear the song again, when she goes out on tour soon.
Alicia hasn’t announced if she’ll be taking anyone else on the road, but her longtime friend Loon showed that he could stand up as an opening act, as he made the ladies scream with his brief set. Meanwhile, Joe proved that he’d be a sound choice for a tour opening act as well. He received the loudest roars during his short stint onstage when he sang “I Wanna Know” and “All the Things (Your Man Won’t Do)” a cappella.
Other artists on the bill for the “MBK Presents R&B Live” showcase, which occurs once a month in the Big Apple and is masterminded by Keys’ manager, were newcomer Dwele, Shawn Kane, Jessica Wilson, Focus and Lola. Various Power 105 radio personalities, including Ed Lover and Doctor Dre, acted as hosts.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.