UNIONDALE, New York — If the name Sade only conjures up a melancholy Diddy-Dirty Money lyric (from "Ass on the Floor"), then her reemergence on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum, a week into the North American leg of her 2011 world tour, might not seem significant. But it's been a decade since the iconic, often reclusive singer hit the road, and her presence onstage seemed to prove that pop still has its constants.
Over the course of about 90 minutes, the Nigerian-born Brit waded through a discography that spans nearly 30 years and never seems to collect dust. In fact, her opener, "Soldier of Love," is a pounding battle hymn that shares little of the DNA of her '80s classics. Dressed in all-black and perched atop strappy stilettos, Sade whipped up the adoring crowd, marching on to the stage and punctuating the song's insistent drum line with kick steps.
At 52, she is almost as willowy now — and still sporting the same slick ponytail, scarlet-stained lips and hoop earrings — as she is in those early MTV music videos for standards like "Smooth Operator," which proved to be a multigenerational crowd-pleaser on Tuesday. And her smoky alto had a vocal range deceptively broader than her records might suggest.
Supported by her longtime band/collaborators, Sade shimmied and kept the pace in flux, going from introspective ballads, like "Kiss of Life" (from Love Deluxe) and "Pearls," to midtempo cuts, like the roots-tinged "Love Is Stronger Than Pride" and "Sweetest Taboo." This was notable because she's built a catalog lined with sleepy tunes seemingly designed to ease you through the stages of heartbreak.
While the boomer contingent came to their feet whenever the star dipped back to her '85 Diamond Life debut (some even danced junior-prom style in the aisles), others were excited to hear her work from 2000's Lovers Rock. If Picasso had his Blue period, that album could be considered Sade's Red, Yellow and Green period: The songstress had fallen in love and settled in Jamaica's Montego Bay and seemed to absorb the culture, even sporting the signature Rasta colors on the album's cover. She joined her backup singers for the blissful "All About Our Love" and demonstrated why she's worn the crown for so long on "King of Sorrow."
Before signing off with another Rock cut, "By Your Side," Sade recalled coming to NYC in her 20s, just another girl and her band trying to make it, and jokingly compared herself to Crocodile Dundee.
It was probably only fitting that Maxwell was sitting just a few rows back from the stage on Tuesday night. The crooner is arguably one of the few who can even blink in Sade's direction. John Legend is another, and he showed why during his opening set, throwing himself into smashes like "Ordinary People" and a delicious new arrangement of his "Green Light."
Have you seen Sade in concert? Tell us about it in the comments!