Sixteen years after politely introducing herself as R&B's smooth operator, Sade and her million-dollar vocal cords are still as smooth as the silk dress that draped her body Tuesday night.
Performing the second show of a two-night stay at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, the sultry singer displayed her pop-world staying power with a career-spanning set highlighted by "Smooth Operator." (Click for photos from the concert.)
Sade took her signature song for a soaring ride through glitzy disco halls, smoky jazz clubs and rock arenas. It culminated in a five-minute jam session complete with electric guitar solos and samba breakdowns.
She chronicled the voyage by emphasizing lines in the classic tune such as "Coast to coast, L.A. to Chicago, Western male/ Across the North and South, to Key Largo, love for sale." Not surprisingly, the Chicago reference was met with a roar of applause.
The striking Sade possesses the mystical presence of a movie star. Indeed, the singer first appeared sashaying behind a silver screen hanging in front of the stage. The mountaintops and ocean waves outlining her figure made for an impressive visual effect she revisited later on in the exhausting two-hour show.
Following her "Cherish the Day" opener from 1992's Love Deluxe and "Your Love Is King" from 1984's Diamond Life, Sade greeted her adoring fans for the first of a few times during the night although her quiet part-African, part-British accent was usually drowned out by cheers. "They say it is never as good as the first time, but in Chicago the second time is better," she said before singing "Never as Good as the First Time" from 1985's Promise.
Unlike Madonna and Janet Jackson, the other pop divas on tour this summer, Sade doesn't overly decorate her tunes with costumes and choreography. She made only one outfit switch, changing from a silver-and-purple iridescent dress to black pants, a pink top and purple bandana for her encore. The extent of her dancing involved her two backing singers leading her through a simple, yet sexy, routine.
Mostly, though, Sade swayed around the stage, clenching her microphone in front of her face and allowing her songs to do the entertaining. Apart from such theatrical moments as her rousing vocal attack to close out "Cherry Pie" and a flirtatious leg cross while sitting on the edge of the stage for "Jezebel," the show flowed like a good novel a love story, of course.
Sade's tour easily packs the summer's hottest date potential. Even the most unromantic could get a taste of Cupid from "Kiss of Life" and the Love Deluxe single "No Ordinary Love."
Sade was particularly sensual during "By Your Side," which opens Lovers Rock but closed Tuesday's first set. Her first album in eight years, Lovers Rock debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart last fall.
Videos, which screened during most of the evening, showed archival footage of slaves during "Slave Song" and provided nature shots to match Sade's lush soundscapes.
Her band an octet featuring longtime collaborators Stuart Matthewman (guitar/saxophone), Paul S. Denman (bass) and Andrew Hale (keyboards) at times stole attention away from the singer.
Near the end of the show, the relaxed audience was startled by enormous thunderclaps. Spotlights lit the arena and the backdrop blew. It was quite an introduction, but Sade lived up to it with a spooky version of the Promise hit "The Sweetest Taboo," singing, "There's a quiet storm and it never felt this hot before."
India.Arie, dressed in a pelican robe and singing her lungs out, proved a Sade-in-the-making during her opening set. She crooned through most of her acclaimed debut, Acoustic Soul, including the singles "Video" and "Brown Skin."
Sade, midway through her tour, has announced these additional dates, according to Epic Records:
- 8/8 - Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
- 8/10 - Holmdel, NJ @ P.N.C. Bank Arts Center
- 8/11 - Camden, NJ @ Tweeter Center at the Waterfront
- 8/13 - New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
- 8/15 - New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
- 8/16 - Wantagh, NY @ Jones Beach Amphitheatre
- 8/18 - Cleveland, OH @ Cleveland State University Convocation Center
- 8/19 - Auburn Hills, MI @ Palace of Auburn Hills
- 8/21 - Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Arena
- 8/22 - Boston, MA @ FleetCenter
- 8/24 - Bristow, VA @ Nissan Pavilion
- 8/25 - Raleigh, NC @ Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek
- 8/27 - Atlanta, GA @ Philips Arena
- 8/29 - Fort Lauderdale, FL @ National Car Rental Center
- 8/30 - Fort Lauderdale, FL @ National Car Rental Center
- 9/1 - New Orleans, LA @ New Orleans Arena
- 9/5 - St. Louis, MO @ Savvis Center
- 9/7 - Noblesville, IN @ Verizon Wireless Music Center
- 9/8 - Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend Music Center
- 9/10 - Columbus, OH @ Polaris Amphitheater
- 9/13 - Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center
- 9/15 - Las Vegas, NV @ MGM Grand Hotel
- 9/16 - Phoenix, AZ @ Cricket Pavilion
- 9/18 - Concord, CA @ Chronicle Pavilion
- 9/20 - Anaheim, CA @ Arrowhead Pond