Growing up, between my parents’ vinyl and CD collections, we were well-stocked with the greatest and latest in R&B and hip-hop, from vintage Isley Brothers, Average White Band, and Atlantic Starr (“Whatchu know about that?”) to A Tribe Called Quest, Jodeci, and Maxwell. On the weekends while doing housework (cleaning, laundry, and ironing), we played records and CDs—from first track to last—by the likes of Anita Baker, Michael and Janet Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and, yes, Sade. (I could probably sing Love Deluxe verbatim in my sleep.)
These fond memories, and the possibility that the opportunity may not come for another 10 years (if ever again), compelled me to find a way to see Sade (with very special guest John Legend) on her Soldier of Love Tour, come hell or high water. Neither hell nor high water came, but, unable to attend a more conveniently located show mainly due to my run in Othello last month, I went to Atlantic City. The concert was well worth the trip.
John Legend set it off. I’d seen him perform a short concert in Central Park after releasing his first album, and I’ve seen him perform on numerous shows. I knew the brother was talented, but whoa—it was like sexy Saturday night chuch up in there!
Ray, the biopic about Ray Charles, is one of my favorite movies. I remember wondering why Ray Charles got so much flak in his day from religious folks for the convergence of sacred and secular in his music. In other words, he used the sound, flavor, and energy of black gospel to sing about “worldly” matters. Legend put this into perspective. (While I don’t agree with it, I now understand the brouhaha.) Like Ray, he got chuch all up and through him and his music, his set was deliciously divine.
He scored bonus points with me by playing two of my favorites: “Ordinary People” and “Green Light.” He also blessed us with a handful of tracks from the album Once Again, which I played on a daily basis for awhile when I lived in L.A.
Sade kept the spiritual vibe going by her unique means. The music of both of these artists touches you in places and ways beyond words – both carnal and cosmic. But Sade’s ethereal yet guttural voice and soulful yet ambient sound provide a different route to getting lifted. The “a-ha” moment of this spiritual link between the two of them, despite very different sounds and energy, was a pleasant surprise.
As a vocalist, Sade is a stand-alone phenomenon; but I have never been to a concert where the band felt so inextricably fundamental to the experience. In other words, I daresay that Sade is not just the singer but the band itself. They are incredible! It was awesome—I don’t use that word lightly or very often—hearing the music from Sade’s catalogue live, where it is catapulted to a whole other level. There are still sounds for which I can’t quite place the instrument on which they’re played. And don’t get me started on the saxophone solos that are prominent features in many of her songs—no words.
While she sang one of my favorites, “Love Is Stronger Than Pride,” she did not sing my other all-time favorite, “Lover’s Rock,” which, speaking of the spiritual nature of her music, is a personal hymn of mine. I wasn’t even mad though, as she was so generous and extraordinary, in general.
Other highlights: opening with the bumping and thumping “Soldier of Love,” a thrilling and chilling ”Is It A Crime?” midway through, and pared down and moving renditions of “Jezebel” and “Pearls” towards the beginning and end of her show. I’m still floored.
If they come to a city near you (or close enough to get there and back safely), do not miss the transcendent Sade and the (already) legendary John Legend on the Soldier of Love Tour.