When the show began promptly at 8, two video screens that lingered beside the venue's golden chandeliers lit up and showed Keys walking through the backstage corridors. Wearing a dark leather jacket, silver-accented jeans and a matching belt, the singer arrived to an applauding and camera-flashing audience.
"How y'all doing tonight?" she asked the crowd as she began with her first number "Love Is Blind," a new song included on her upcoming LP. Two dancers dressed in white accompanied the singer as she displayed her impressive piano skills. Then, following a festive remix of "Karma," she took time for a chat with her hometown audience.
"Today we are celebrating the beauty of us coming together, you know? That's why I'm so glad you're here with me tonight," she said before proceeding with a spoken monologue similar to that from the video for "You Don't Know My Name," eventually leading into the 2003 hit.
The show continued on with fan favorites, such as "If I Ain't Got You," "Superwoman," "No One" and "Fallin'," but Keys shined brightest while performing "Diary" with fellow R&B singer Jermaine Paul. During the vocal acrobatics of the song's bridge, Keys' vocals complemented Paul's tender tone, which received an uproar of praise from the audience. One single light lit Keys, hunched over on a stool in the middle of the stage, as the pounding drums of her new single "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart" began. Fans were also treated to another new power jam, "Distance and Time," which finds Keys singing about the anticipation of a lover's return.
Aside from her string of hits and impromptu talks, Keys also announced a new contest. More than halfway through the show, she discussed how her 2002 journey to Africa impacted her life. In the hopes that the same will happen to others, she's inviting five lucky people to accompany her on her next trip to the continent. She encouraged the audience to text a number displayed on the backdrop behind her to donate $5 to her Keep a Child Alive foundation and be entered to win the contest. Fans can also enter
Ending her hour-long set, Keys started "Empire State of Mind, Part 2." She sang her way through the number, encouraging the New Yorkers in the theater to join along and wave their hands. And just as the mood was set, none other than Jay-Z walked onto the stage. The crowd cheered, and in that instant, Keys' charity concert ended with bang, while the fans continued to chant "New Yorrrk!"
The show, sponsored by American Express, was sold out in minutes. Fortunately, those who didn't get tickets were able to experience the event via the singer's official YouTube channel, where video highlights of the show are now available.