It was a night of soaring vocals, positive messages and surprise guests when Alicia Keys' Freedom Tour stopped in her hometown of New York City on Wednesday evening at Madison Square Garden. The singer, who was joined onstage by Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Swizz Beatz, performed a string of songs from past to present and even showcased some of her dance skills.
Before the songstress emerged onstage, fans were treated to the soulful sounds of opening acts Jermaine Paul, Melanie Fiona and Robin Thicke. Paul, who has previously served as a background singer for Keys, was enthusiastic in his efforts to hype up the audience. Fiona kept the momentum moving with her powerful vocal range and charismatic smile while she performed songs like "It Kills Me" and new single "Ay Yo."
When Robin Thicke made his way to the stage, it was clear he was aware of his legions of female fans. Decked out in a dark suit and sunglasses, the singer crooned his way through his set, which included the thumping "Shakin' It 4 Daddy" and "Lost Without U." Thicke remained playful as well by ending his set with a sing-along to Lil Wayne's "A Milli."
Shortly after 9:30, the lights went out and the beginning of Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us" filled the air. The drums of the 1996 track intensified as the night's main attraction appeared before fans on towering video screens.
"I'm a renegade. I'm a truth seeker. They told me I would never make it and I did. They told me I wasn't strong enough but I am mighty. The element of freedom is tattooed on my heart," Keys announced.
Alicia Keys appeared in a chain-wrapped cage amid the smoke that slowly flooded the stage. She began the show with a medley of her track "Caged Bird" and "Love Is Blind." She whipped her hair from side to side until she made her way out of the spinning entrapment and happily towards the front of the stage.
"New York, you feeling good?" she asked the roaring crowd. There was no hesitation — the jam-packed arena was ready. Dressed in a tight black top, sparkling pants and a red coat with tails, Keys made full use of the stage by fluttering from side to side with her dancers during "You Don't Know My Name." She continued with songs like "Fallen," which she changed around vocally, and her rocking Jack White collaboration "Another Way to Die."
Opening act Jermaine Paul took the stage once again when Keys sat down at her piano for "Diary." While the two played vocal acrobatics around each other during the song's bridge, it was evident that they shared onstage chemistry. After a quick costume change into a sleek white dress, she performed "Superwoman" and "If I Can't Have You."
The songstress took several moments throughout her show to explain the importance of believing in yourself.
But after another outfit change, it was her performance of "Put It in a Love Song" that really got fans riled up. Keys performed her way through the dance number, then introduced Beyoncé, who descended from a staircase and joined Keys for the remainder of the song, ending with a dance breakdown. This marks the very first time the two artists have ever performed together onstage.
Keys slowed things down after the powerhouse female duet with songs like "Unthinkable" and "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart."
And with Beyoncé making a surprise appearance onstage, it was only fitting that her husband do the same. As Keys momentarily stopped playing piano, Swizz Beatz ran onstage and was soon followed by none other than Jay-Z. Times Square and the city skyline engulfed the arena as scenes of the city shined brightly for the sea of people. There's something especially moving about listening to the ode to New York City "Empire State of Mind" while actually in the city itself.
Keys is always a master on piano, but her evening in New York proved her ability to put on a show with massive vocals, strong imagery and a powerful message.