Live Review: Alicia Keys + John Legend @ Allphones Arena, Sydney – December 11, 2013

Review by Kristie Nicolas
Photo courtesy Peter Dovgan
A double billing doesn’t happen very often here in Australia, let alone in the often neglected genre of R&B. but this past Wednesday, at Allphones Arena that’s just what Sydney-siders were treated to. They turned up in droves to see R&B darling Alicia Keys perform, along with special guest John Legend on the Set The World On Fire tour.

Legend took to the stage as the crowd was streaming in for the show. For many artists this could very well throw them off. But Legend seemed to take this as a challenge. And boy, did he rise to the task. Opening with the percussive, electronic styling of ‘Made To Love’, from his latest album, Love In The Future, Legend and his band came out in fine form. They remained that way through out, not swayed even for a moment by the bright lights on the audience. Legend gave a spirited and high energy performance, supported by his band and stunning backing vocalists, who almost stole the show with their sassy choreographed moves and vocals. While Legend proved a more than competent show man, it was in the stripped down moments that he really shone. Sitting at the grand piano that adorned the centre of the stage, Legend gave the audience a lesson in heartfelt crooning. Whether covering Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”, tear-jerker “Ordinary People” or the current number one song in the country, “All Of Me”, Legend’s performance was pure perfection.

The pairing of Legend with Alicia Keys on this tour is beyond fitting, as the pair go way back, with Legend providing backing vocals for Keys on ‘You Don’t Know My Name’ from her 2003 release, The Diary Of Alicia Keys. Keys sang the soulful number about unrequited love second in her set, after opening with the upbeat “Karma”. Once the audience had recovered from Keys’ impressive opening two songs, she moved on to material from her most recent album, Girl On Fire and proceeded to go through her exceptional catalogue of songs, effortlessly supported by her stellar band and backing vocalists. While Keys’ performance was very theatrical, as a whole the production never lacked a high level of musicality and tonnes of soul, from the rousing solos from her band to a phenomenal rendition of Motown classic ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’ by the husband and wife backing vocals duo.

But the star of the night was without a doubt Keys, whose charisma, strength and striking persona held the crowd captive. Proving to be the epitome of class and talent, Keys looked at home whether role-playing on stage as she did on ‘Unthinkable’, dancing across the stage with her entourage of buff dancers (‘Murder She Wrote’), wearing her heart on her sleeve at her grand piano (‘Fallin’’ and ‘Brand New Me’) or putting her fierce drumming skills on display (‘New Day’).

By the time the finale numbers of ‘Girl On Fire’ and ‘Empire State Of Mind’ where upon the crowd, Keys and her band had shown everyone just how it’s done. Diva-esque vocals? Check. Charismatic between-song banter? Check. Humility and a whole lot of soul. Check and check. It’s plain to see why Keys’ references fire in her album title and tour name, because she set the stage on fire last night and made sure that fire burned brightly long after the show was over.

Review by Kristie Nicolas

CLICK HERE for ALICIA KEYS Australian Tour 2013, with special guest JOHN LEGEND – Tour Details